Socrates Sculpture Park…Don’t Try This at Home!

sculpture park

Admittedly there is already something much nicer about seeing artwork displayed outdoors than in an antiseptic white-walled gallery space.  Socrates Sculpture Park is one small green haven for art alongside an industrial road in Long Island City.

Art in Odd Places

This emerging neighborhood just across the river from Manhattan, in Queens, is home to some of the most unusual art spaces in New York City.  The Noguchi Museum pays homage to the Japanese architect, designer, and sculptor in a building and garden that was designed by the artist himself.

PS1 Contemporary Art Center re-purposed the first Public School House in 1971.  It is one of the nations largest and most historic institutions dedicated to contemporary artwork.

And then there is Five Points.  This giant industrial building complex has literally been covered from top to bottom in graffiti art.  Artists occupy the space as well and it is an incredibly vibrant and impressive site to see.   If you have the chance to, ride the 7 train which winds past it or, better yet, sneak inside of it and onto the roof!

But what makes Socrates Sculpture Park so special is the way in which public art and the park itself are so delicately intertwined.   You don’t get the sense going there, that visitors are in the park for one reason or another.  There is a small forest of trees you can rest against while gazing upon the river and skyline.  Large-scale sculptures are scattered around you.

Do it Outside…at Socrates Sculpture Park

Sculpture Park

Chinese Artist Ai Wei Wei shows us how to use your average household spray can to block out a CCTV Surveillance Camera…

Or if you are not sure what to do in the park, you could take instruction from artist Hans Ulrich Obrist.  His collaborative project, do it {outside} in partnership with Independent Curators International (ICI) has brought together a collection of art-making instructions.  These are all written by artists for other artists to carry out.  And they read something like an IKEA manual…but a lot more obscure and entertaining, and they only generate conceptual frustration.

sculpture park

Ulrich Obrist’s do it (outside) exhibition spans across the park

A personal favorite in this unusual exhibition (perhaps because I eat too much of it)was a drawing that instructs the “artist” to dig a hole in front of a doorway in order to ripen an avocado.  Then there was three step process for using Plank A and Plank B to kill a fly and repeat as necessary.

At this point you are probably wondering where the art is in all of this – and that’s a fair question.  If you expect art to be an object of “value” then you might be somewhat disappointed.  But if you are open to the idea that art can playfully mock the whole institution of artists taking art too seriously then you might appreciate what Obrist has created.

If you are interested in the history, check out the Dada and Fluxus movements, which gave birth to this kind of instructional and ironic art-making.  Or just go check it out and chuckle at the idea of actually trying some of these things and calling them art.  And then just enjoy the park! The title of the show kind of says it all…

sculpture park

Another artists uses a platform as a place for exchanging objects inviting audiences to take and leave at their leisure


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