One of the top places on our “list of places to visit when we can travel again” is Storm King Art Center, a 500 acre outdoor museum in the Hudson Valley. It’s now open again, with visitors limited to 300 per day via timed tickets. Peter Schjeldahl, the New Yorker’s art critic, visited recently and writes about it in this week’s issue:
In lockdown times, there’s euphoria in going much of anywhere, not to speak of a journey to a tract of paradise. You could say that I was primed for giddiness on this occasion. I noticed unaccustomed intensity in my responses to the art works that I encountered, taking them in like gulps of air after escaping a miasma. It was a gift of refreshed aesthetic innocence, which I think awaits us all when we are set free in even non-curated environs — I’ve been feeling apologetic to certain trees, near my home, for my past indifference to their beauty — and a lesson in joys that we used to take for granted. We will have peeled eyes.
One of my favorite books this year has been Schjeldahl’s Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light, which collects 100 of his reviews since 1988. If you’re even an occasional museum or gallery goer, I highly recommend it. Unlike so many art critics he writes for his reader — not for the art world, not for himself. There’s joy in his prose, and it’s so crisp you can almost feel the column inch constraint. The book’s also wildly democratic, timeline wise. Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light covers Warhol, Wool, Marshall and Holzer, of course; but also Donatello, Goya, Rembrandt and Vermeer. Always with peeled eyes.
After a lifetime of smoking, Schjeldahl’s been diagnosed with lung cancer. In a memoir-ish New Yorker piece at the end of last year, “The Art of Dying,” he had this brief aside defining contemporary art: “I like to say that contemporary art consists of all art works, five thousand years or five minutes old, that physically exist in the present. We look at them with contemporary eyes, the only kinds of eyes that there ever are.”