Some of us visited the DIA Art Foundation in Beacon, NY recently. The 300,000 square foot repurposed Nabisco box-printing factory is a light-filled, expansive and serene setting for modern art along the Hudson River, about 60 miles north of New York City. Each large gallery within the pared-down industrial space focuses on an installation or series of works by one artist, such as Donald Judd’s minimalist box sculptures, or Gerhard Richter’s enigmatic grey mirror panels.
Lines of Communication
A highlight for us was seeing the conceptual wall drawings by Sol Lewitt. In the mid-1960’s, Lewitt began creating wall drawings for which he would first propose a problem or set of instructions such as “Ten thousand lines about 10 inches long, covering the wall evenly,” and then set about executing the plan in graphite or similar media. The works at DIA were produced by assistants and volunteers according to the Lewitt’s sometimes complex directives, and fill several rooms with surprising variations, combinations, and patterns of line. It was mind-stretching and fun to see how much could be expressed with just line, and within a set of self-imposed rules.
Exploring Inner Space
But what we really, REALLY love at DIA are the three Torqued Ellipses by Richard Serra. These deceptively simple sculptures are made of 2” thick curved steel walls, standing 12 or 13 feet high, each weighing 20 tons or more. Their basic shape is that of an elliptical container which has been skewed on different axes (think a giant cuff bracelet that’s been twisted and squeezed). Serra first worked out his ideas in small-scale lead models (also on view at DIA) and worked with Beth Ship, one of the only shipyard rolling mills with the capability to handle the enormous technical challenges in creating the finished pieces.
Each Ellipse is discontinuous, like a squashed letter C, creating an opening that draws the viewer to walk inside the space created by the curving, leaning, spiraling walls of rust-patinated steel. From the outside, the Ellipses appear massive and imposing; but once we entered, the works seemed all about intimate space and our experience of it. In one piece, there are two concentric ellipses, creating a spiral passage to the interior. As we walked through the narrow passage, the torqued walls on either side of us first leaned in at the top and splayed out at the bottom; these angles slowly reversed as we got closer to the interior. There was something awe-inspiring about moving through this passage where our relationship to the space, the perimeter and light from above was constantly shifting as we moved.
We hope the spaces surrounding you are as inspiring!