Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dia: Beacon (Beacon, NY): Beacon Street

Dia: Beacon is a 30,000 square foot former box-printing factory that was refurbished to provide an unparalleled exhibition space for modern art adjacent to 70 acres of riverfront along the Hudson River.  The expansive galleries are illuminated by natural light through windows and skylights, so the art is beautifully highlighted.  The museum presents large scale works from some of the most significant contemporary artists in a way that is not usually possible in traditional museums and galleries.  Each artist's works are presented in an in-depth way with whole galleries dedicated to each of them.

As I have mentioned in the past, I am not a huge fan of modern art, but this huge exhibition space and the setting make Dia: Beacon a unique experience worth the hour and 20 minute train ride each way.  You can get "One Day Getaway" round trip MTA train tickets and discounted museum admission at ticket booths in Grand Central for $31/adult.  HINT: The walk to Dia: Beacon after exiting the train is to the east and south (take the underpass at the south end of the platform) is about 7-10 minutes and includes steep up and down portions.

Although no photography is permitted in the galleries, I have included some pictures from brochures of some of the most intriguing work.  I especially loved the Drawing Series by Sol LeWitt (see right).  The exactness, detail, and hand drawing work are awe inspiring in the massive room-sized scale he used. This native of Hartford, CT has a background as a draftsman for I.M. Pei and it is clearly evident in his dramatic work (this photo cannot capture the impressiveness--you have to see it in person).

The "Work as Action" installation of artwork by Franz Erhard Walther (which is on view through February 13, 2012) is another interesting show.  At designated times (generally 11-1 and 2-4 pm), visitors are provided a catalog of Walther's pieces that investigate the interplay of spatial, sensorial, and temporal dimensions.  With the help of a museum attendant, visitors can play with and try numerous pieces in designated ways (see excerpt of catalog at left). 

Dan Flavin's neon lights of "Monuments" adds humor and witticism.  The temporary nature of the fluorescent lighting that represent what are supposed to be "permanent" monuments is great.  One can hardly miss the references to the Empire State Building (see right), and while I am generally not a fan of harsh lighting, I love the simplicity of the designs.

There are also gigantic colorful installations of irregular shapes by Imi Knoebel and simplistic but innovative (at the time) color block pieces by Blinky Palermo (fka Peter Schwarze).

However, the art that really takes advantage of the space of the Dia: Beacon are the sculptures.  Whether they are the acrylic yarn sculptures of Fred Sandback, the crushed metal sculptures with car parts by John Chamberlain (see left), the pine boxes of Donald Judd, the negative space created by the metal wells of Michael Heizer (see below right), or the famous rusted metal "larger than life" shapes of Richard Serra, the space of the Dia: Beacon makes these installations possible in a way no other interior space could.

If you have a full day to luxuriate in modern art, take a trip out to Beacon, New York.  You won't be disappointed.  There is nothing like it.

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