NYC Summer Adventure: Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens
The Socrates Sculpture Park, located at the western end of Broadway in Long Island City, Queens (about a half mile walk from the N/Q station), is one of the great grass-roots success stories of the past few decades here in New York City. In 1986 a group of local activists and artists banded together and, with some help and leadership from world-renowned sculptor Mark di Suverno, transformed an illegal dumping ground and abandoned landfill into both a working studio and a public exhibition space right on the banks on the East River. Nearby LIC residents make great use of the space as a pleasant place to do everything you might normally do in a park, but it's the two primary exhibitions, one in the spring, one in the fall, that always bring me to this tranquil little spot. Like last week, for instance, when I made the trek to see the five new works taking over this NYC gem.
The Living Pyramid
The Socrates Sculpture Park Spring/Summer show is dominated by two huge new attention-getting pieces. First, there is The Living Pyramid by Agnes Denes, a magnificent earth work that's thirty feet wide at its base and narrows to a point thirty feet high in the air. That's about three stories tall! And the most interesting part is that this mammoth structure is, as advertised, a living, growing thing, constructed of soil and planted grasses and wildflowers. So it looks imposing and magisterial from a distance, and then utterly changes, and softens, when you get close up. By the way, this is the artist's first major public work in NYC since her iconic Wheatfield of 1982, when she planted exactly that in the landfill that would become Battery Park City.
The other major work here at Socrates Sculpture Park is Heidi Fasnacht's Suspect Terrain, an affecting portrait of a pretty little house getting sucked into sinkhole. Fasnacht was apparently inspired by several recent enormous sinkholes around the world–in China and Guatamala, in particular–but a friend of mine from Japan found the piece almost unbearable to view, based on her experience with the devastation there in 2011. Of course, Suspect Terrain taps into one of our most primal fears, being buried alive, but it also evokes a kind "revenge of Mother Earth" scenario, getting back at those (us) who have nearly killed it. Of the other sculptures in the exhibition, I liked Gabriela Albergaria's franken-trees chained to a concrete wall–it's called Two Trees In Balance, but clearly the whole thing's out of whack–as well as IK Studio's winning entry in this year's early career architects and designers competition, the floral-looking Torquing Spheres.
When & Where To Go
Socrates Sculpture Park is located at 32-01 Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City, Queens, at the western end of Broadway. The park is open every day from 10:00 a.m. until sunset (except for movie nights, when it's open well after dark), and current exhibition will be in place through August 30.