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MeTube: Marvelous Mark di Suvero Conquers Governors Island (and me)

As you consider various outdoor alternatives for enjoying Memorial Day weekend, here’s a suggestion for those in the NYC metropolitan area: a pleasant ferry ride from the tip of Manhattan to Governors Island, where a gloriously sited exhibition of 11 sculptures by Mark di Suvero—from large to monumental—awaits.

Governors Island Ferry Terminal at the Battery, Lower Manhattan

I was told that six of the sculptures on the island are owned by the artist. So some of the works labeled “Private Collection” must, in fact, be his. A 12th sculpture will be on view in Brooklyn—at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

This the first off-site exhibition organized by the Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, NY, which is trying to entice more visitors from New York City to its sprawling, art-filled grounds upstate. At yesterday’s press preview, there was a stack of two-for-one admission cards for Storm King available for the taking at the island’s visitor center.

I’ve always had a special fondness for di Suvero’s imposing yet friendly works. Back in 1975, at the time of the Whitney Museum’s landmark di Suvero exhibition, he was a lionized art star. But by 1993, he was one of several figures I featured in my Mar. 7 NY Times “Arts & Leisure” piece (to which I cannot find a link) about well known, respected artists who had somehow become unfashionable and/or fallen into obscurity. In the both categories at that moment was di Suvero, who (unlike Helen Frankenthaler, Jane Freilicher and Frank Stella, among others) turned down my request for an interview.

Here’s what I wrote about his elusiveness:

“I’m not sure he wants to advertise himself as a neglected artist,” said his [di Suvero’s] dealer, Richard Bellamy, owner of Oil & Steel Gallery in Long Island City. Mr. Bellamy did suggest one trait that may explain why Mr. di Suvero had fallen from favor: “He’s a bit of a maverick, and he’s not that much interested in gallery shows.”

But at the end of the following month, his first exhibition at Gagosian Gallery opened (presumably too soon after my article for it to have played a role in that). His visibility began to rise. When I attended the 1995 Venice Biennale, his works were triumphantly installed up and down the Grand Canal.

Since we were just speaking of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s planned expansion, which was motivated in part by its major 100-year gift of the large trove assembled by Doris Fisher and her late husband, Donald, here’s one important sculpture now on Governors Island’s Picnic Point that I neglected to highlight in the video. If you look through its legs, on the left, you’ll glimpse the Statue of Liberty:

“Will,” 1994, Donald and Doris Fisher Collection

Below is my video of the Governors
Island offerings (to Sept. 25), in which you’ll see the scribe tribe playing with sculptures—a
role that I expect will soon be more vigorously assumed by scampering

an ArtsJournal blog