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Von Rydingsvard and Goldsworthy at DeCordova Sculpture Park

Von Rydingsvard and Goldsworthy at DeCordova Sculpture Park
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Snow Following Cedar

Back in 2009, the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, announced its new aspiration to become an outdoor sculpture venue akin to Storm King Art Center in upstate New York by officially changing its name to DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum.  Two current sculpture shows advance that ambition measurably by featuring two of the world’s best known sculptors – German-born Ursula von Rydingsvard and Scotsman Andy Goldsworthy.

Weeping Plates by Ursula von Rydingsvard
Ursula von Rydingsvard, Weeping Plates, 2005 cedar

Ursula von Rydingsvard: Sculpture (May 29 to August 28) is the second in a planned series of major sculpture exhibitions, the first having been last summer’s exhibition of tire rubber sculpture by Chakaia Booker. Von Rydingsvard is as obsessed with material as Booker is, only von Rydingsvard has made an international name for herself since the 1970s by working almost exclusively in raw, fragrant cedar wood.

Krasavica20II by Ursula von Rydingsvard Ursula von Rydingsvard, Krasavica II, 1999-2001

Thought she was born in Germany, Ursula von Rydingsvard’s formative experience was growing up until age eight (when he family emigrated to America) in Nazi labor camps and post-war Polish refugee camps. The bare wooden floors, walls, and ceilings of those hateful buildings informs her choice of medium and her Polish peasant heritage inspires many of the domestic and agricultural forms – bowls, spoons, shovels, axes – that she renders in a rough-sawn cedar.

Beginning with 4 x 4 inch cedar beams, von Rydingsvard cuts and stacks the wood to create monumental forms, at once abstract and freighted with social meaning, a kind of Lincoln log minimalism. Using a circular saw and a chisel, she and her assistants work the surfaces into jagged textures that are then painted with graphite dust to give them an almost ancient look and feel.

Where von Rydingsvard practices an art of personal archeology, Andy Goldsworthy is celebrated for turning almost anything that comes naturally to hand – leaves, twigs, branches, dirt, rocks, water, ice, and snow – into transient works of transcendental art.

Andy Goldsworthy, Snowballs in Summer/Glasgow/Dogwood, 1988-89 Andy Goldsworthy, Snowballs in Summer/Glasgow/Dogwood, 1988-89

Andy Goldsworthy: Snow (May 29 to December 31) features drawings and both video and photographic documentation of past Goldsworthy snow projects and announces a major new commission by the DeCordova. While the gallery exhibition will end at the end of the year, the museum and sculpture park has commissioned Goldsworthy to construct a Snow House on the park grounds. The house itself will not be made of snow. Rather Goldsworthy is constructing a granite-lined chamber dug into the side of hill.

Each winter in perpetuity, the DeCordova staff will roll a nine-foot in diameter snowball into the Snow House, lock it behind a giant oak door, and then open it again in mid-summer. Visitors to the sculpture park will get to watch the snowball melt, a process expected to take about five days. The relative permanence of stone incubating the relative impermanence of snow.

Both Ursula von Rydingsvard and Andy Goldsworthy participate in that late 20th century artistic trope of turning nature into culture. Well worth the trip to Lincoln.

[DeCordova Sculpture Park & Museum, 51 Sandy Pond Rd., Lincoln MA, 781-259-8355.]

Edgar Allen Beem


Edgar Allen Beem


Take a look at art in New England with Edgar Allen Beem. He’s been art critic for the Portland Independent, art critic and feature writer for Maine Times, and now is a freelance writer for Yankee, Down East, Boston Globe Magazine, The Forecaster, and Photo District News. He’s the author of Maine Art Now (1990) and Maine: The Spirit of America (2000). In 1988, he won the Manufacturers Hanover Art/World Award for Distinguished Newspaper Art Criticism for his coverage of the 1987 auction sale of Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises. Ed says, “My credo as an arts writer has long been: ‘The work of art is the search for meaning.’ I believe art is not only a form of personal expression but also a form of inquiry, every bit as much a quest for truth as scientific research.” Ed Beem’s newest book, Backyard Maine: Local Essays, has just been published by Tilbury House, Publishers, of Gardiner, Maine. It’s not about the meaning of art; it’s about the meaning of family, community, and life in general. Edgar Beem is currently at work on a new book about contemporary art in Maine to be published in the fall of 2012.
Updated Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

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