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.]

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