October 04, 2013

"Ideas of Stone" @ Madison Square Park

A true sign of autumn in New York is the profusion of art exhibitions opening in major museums.  I'm waiting for the crowds to thin a little before venturing to the Met or MoMA, but there are no throngs to contend with at one show that just opened downtown at Madison Square Park.

Throughout the fall and early winter, visitors to this oasis of green just north of the iconic Flatiron Building, will be treated to an outdoor installation by Italian artist Guiseppe Penone.  "Idee di pietra / Ideas of Stone" features three 30' trees made of bronze, each with one or more large rocks held in the branches.

These monumental sculptures embody Penone's fascination with the relationship between man and nature.  From the artist's beginning as a member of the Arte Povera group, he has sought to blur the line between art and life by incorporating commonplace objects into his work.  Here, he converts trees - a recurring subject of his work - into a man-made object, and moves natural objects, the stones, into un-natural locations.

The results are captivating in their incongruousness.  While the bronze tree looks realistic, there is something definitely going on here with the large stones suspended in the air.  The artist states "A tree summarizes...the contrast between two forces:  the force of gravity and the weight of the life we are a part of.  The need and the search for balance, which exists in every living being to counteract the force of gravity, is evident in every step...of our lives.  It is a river stone that appears amid the branches of a tree.  A stone suspended amid the branches of a tree, separated from the soil by a structure that is not land and is not air, a stone that lies between the force of gravity and the force of the attraction of light."

While there may be a deep philosophical meaning behind these works, I thought they were just plain beautiful and I am looking forward to revisiting Madison Square Park to see how the bronze replicas evolve as the living trees transition from autumn into winter.

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