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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Dia:Beacon

Robert Irwin - Excursus: Homage to the Square3, installation view
If you've never been to Dia:Beacon, and you like modern art, then add it to your list.

I took advantage of November's first major holiday to dash down to Beacon in time to see a major installation by Robert Irwin that was slated to close on Nov. 26 (as this posts, there's just one day left - sorry, folks!), and to stroll around the grounds both inside and out that Irwin had a hand in designing.

While this experience was worth the trip, so is everything else about Dia:Beacon - no need to be discouraged by the Irwin ending, there's still plenty there to revel in whenever you go. Now 15 years old, the vast museum created from a former Nabisco box factory presents unique opportunities to see some of the 20th century's greatest monumental works of art. In the words of the Dia website, "each gallery was designed specifically for the presentation of one artist’s work. Examples include Dan Flavin’s series of fluorescent light “monuments to V. Tatlin”; Joseph Beuys’ mixed-media installations such as Fond III/3 (1979) and Fond IV/4 (1979); Richard Serra’s Torqued Ellipses (2007); and Michael Heizer’s North, East, South, West(1967/2002)."

Looks like a piece of plate glass but is merely
a rectangle marked in yarn, by Fred Sandberg
The Irwin piece, entitled Excursus: Homage to the Square3, found itself in perfect company with these and the other regularly exhibited artists. It's an experiential, immersive, architectural construction that uses white wooden frameworks covered with white scrims to establish a matrix of rooms (which, incidentally, are rectangular, not square), each of which is lit and punctuated by a set of four vertically oriented fluorescent tubes. The tubes are covered by intricate layers of color filters, establishing a sort of totemic system that makes each room unique. Watching other people, including children, wander among - or streak through - the spaces added to the fun.

On this visit, I had limited extra time to explore, so I made sure to stop with a couple of favorite artists (Fred Sandberg, Blinky Palermo), while also checking out ones I knew not at all. Sandberg's super-minimalist yet hyper-real yarn constructions did not let me down, as invisible planes floating in space emerged from his pieces inexorably to all present (see photo example at right, above).

One discovery was the work of Mary Corse - big white or black paintings that go through shimmering changes with each glance, due to a swirled surface of tiny glass beads. I also quite enjoyed Walter De Maria's final work, a ghostly trio of restored (actually, transformed) 1950s pick-up trucks, each with three shiny obelisks sticking up from its bed like alien invaders.

In between came a big hall of wonderful John Chamberlain sculptures, which recently had a flotilla of many spindly boat-like pieces added, forming a fine, fresh counterpoint to his bulkier constructions of junked car metal. To anyone who might suspect that twisting and welding and coloring huge slabs of steel into fresh forms isn't a fine art, I suggest you see this work.

To everybody else, I say have a good time whatever you do!

Hall of sculptures by John Chamberlain