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Thread: Expansion of Museum of Jewish Heritage

  1. #1

    Default Expansion of Museum of Jewish Heritage



    New Yorker Magazine Issue of 2002-01-21
    Posted 2002-01-14

    Given how much architecture was destroyed in lower Manhattan on September 11th, you might think that the last thing anybody would want to do now is to get rid of more of it, especially if the building in question is one of Battery Park City's most admired, if tiniest, gems. But that is exactly what the Museum of Jewish Heritage is planning to do with an elegant glass entry pavilion that it erected in 1997. The pavilion, a pair of trapezoids, was an afterthought, designed in enormous haste when museum officials decided, just before their new building opened, that its design, a granite hexagon by the architect Kevin Roche, didn't include enough room for ticket sales and security screening of visitors and packages. The only solution was a small, separate entry structure. The museum turned to Claire Weisz and Mark Yoes, a young husband-and-wife team of architects who had previously designed a prototype security kiosk for Battery Park City.

    "The museum people came to us because they said they wanted someone who knew about security booths," Claire Weisz said last week as she walked through her building for what may have been the last time. Weisz and Yoes gave the museum rather more than it expected. They produced a crisp, sharply angled structure with a glass roof and glass-and-metal walls that seemed exhilarating amid the earnest and dutiful brick and stone buildings of Battery Park City. Weisz and Yoes managed to get it designed, approved by the Battery Park City Authority and city officials, and fully constructed, in just eight weeks. "We made it out of any materials we could order and have delivered fast," Weisz said.

    The building, which was known as the visitors center, was never meant to overshadow the museum. But Roche's granite structure turned out to have such functional limitations that the visitors center was soon being used for office space. The little glass pavilion wasn't in most guidebooks, but in time it became the part of the museum complex that architects, especially younger ones, talked about. In a city with few strong modern public buildings, it was a kind of minor, underground icon. In the immediate aftermath of September 11th, when the museum was closed, the visitors center was taken over by the Police Department, which used it to store gas masks.

    Before the terrorist attacks, the museum had decided to expand, and it had gone back to Roche and asked him to produce a design for the expansion. He proposed a big, swooping form of glass and granite that would sit like a backdrop behind the museum. The little glass visitors center would no longer be needed, and museum officials decided to place Roche's addition right where the visitors center now stands.

    Excavation on the new addition began in late December, and by last week the visitors center had been closed. As a young architect, Claire Weiszhas not had many buildings built, let alone demolished, and she finds it strange that her visitors center might disappear after just four years.

    But, then again, it might not. The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, which owns the visitors center, told the Museum of Jewish Heritage last week that it did not want to see the building demolished, not only because of its architectural merit but also because, technically, it has not yet been fully paid for. "The bonds that financed it are still being paid off, and its useful life has not run out," Susan Chin, an assistant commissioner at the Department of Cultural Affairs, said. According to Chin, the city wants the building to be dismantled and moved elsewhere. "We're hoping that Battery Park City will use it, but we're just trying to find a new home," she said. "It's such a specialized building. Do you know any nonprofits that want a very well-designed little glass building?"

    There has been talk of turning it into a field house and office for the Battery Park City ballfields, which are close to Ground Zero and have been occupied by cars and trucks since September 11th, or of using it as a temporary headquarters for a proposed world-hunger research center in Battery Park City. Either option would please Claire Weisz, who says the most important thing for her is that the pavilion be preserved for some sort of public use. "We don't build enough things in the city that can be occupied in a variety of ways," she said.

    Throughout the process, Weisz has never met Kevin Roche, or even spoken to him. "I always felt that this was a kind of David-and-Goliath story," she said. "I understand that the museum people presented the design to him just to be sure that he was not appalled by it. And I guess he wasn't, because they built it."

    — Paul Goldberger

    The Museum of Jewish Heritage on the left of *Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Residences.

  2. #2

    Default Expansion of Museum of Jewish Heritage

    The construction of the East Wing of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. 10 August 2002.

  3. #3

    Default Expansion of Museum of Jewish Heritage

    In the fall of 2003, the Museum plans to open the doors of its new East Wing. The East Wing will respond to the complex needs of our growing audience.

    The East Wing will incorporate classrooms with multimedia capabilities, a theater, special exhibitions galleries, a living center, memorial garden, cafe and catering facilities, and Museum offices. The new building will be fully integrated with the original facility in a seamless design that will highlight the unique features of both structures. With this expansion, the Museum will be better equipped to teach the legacy of the Holocaust and 20th century Jewish history to a broader audience.

    Just as the original Museum became the touchstone of memory and hope for our community, so must this new structure reflect the commitment of individuals to the Museum's mission and continued growth. This is a critical moment in the life of the Museum: a time to build for the future.


    The construction of the East Wing of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. 12 January 2003. In the center - *The Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Residences. On the right - the recent luxury residential conversion, Ocean at 1 West Street.

  4. #4

    Default Expansion of Museum of Jewish Heritage

    I think it's a good idea.

  5. #5

    Default Expansion of Museum of Jewish Heritage

    The construction of the East Wing of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Residences on the right. 9 March 2003.

  6. #6

    Default Expansion of Museum of Jewish Heritage

    Beautiful. Sexy curves.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    New York City

    Default Expansion of Museum of Jewish Heritage

    LoL stern. How tall will the structure be?

  8. #8
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    Garden City, LI

    Default Expansion of Museum of Jewish Heritage

    I love seeing museums and cultural institutions expand in NYC. *Especially now, since they seem to be the most creative.

  9. #9

    Default Expansion of Museum of Jewish Heritage

    NyC MaNiAc, are you seriously asking how tall it is? *What bit of difference does it make?

  10. #10
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    New York City

    Default Expansion of Museum of Jewish Heritage

    dbhstockton, i'm only kidding. Yet, I would love to see actual tall buildings rise in battery park city in the near future.

  11. #11

    Default Expansion of Museum of Jewish Heritage

    I'm afraid they missed the opportunity to be creative. But I like how its concavity counteracts the convexity of the Ritz. And it adds to the mineral quality of Downtown (which probably is simply a sign of conservatism).

  12. #12


    September 12, 2003

    A Monument to Survival Casts Its Resolve in Stone


    Stones for the new memorial garden sit between the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan, left, and its new addition.

    With one curving, granite-clad stroke, the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust has enlarged by almost fourfold its home on the Hudson River waterfront at Battery Park City.

    The museum's Robert M. Morgenthau Wing, which will open next week, is the first significant physical expression of the cultural rebirth of Lower Manhattan since the attack on New York. And it may change the character of the institution itself by integrating it more into the downtown community.

    That is because the public will be admitted without charge to the spatial centerpiece of the new wing: the Memorial Garden terrace, a landscape of boulders and dwarf oak trees designed by the artist Andy Goldsworthy.

    Overlooking the garden, and sharing its view of the Statue of Liberty, will be a 100-seat kosher cafe run by Jeffrey Nathan, proprietor of Abigael's on Broadway, at 39th Street. This will also be open to the public.

    Through the garden and cafe, many more visitors may be exposed to this six-year-old museum, which has suffered from its seemingly remote location. (To make matters worse, it was closed for three weeks after Sept. 11, though the fast actions of a building engineer spared it from significant damage. It had to close again for two months earlier this year during construction.)

    "We see the opening of the wing as a way of rededicating the museum," said David G. Marwell, the museum director. The garden is "intended to be a resource for the public," he said. And while the cafe is an amenity for museumgoers, he said, "it will be a nice place for the neighborhood."

    Rochelle G. Saidel, author of "Never Too Late to Remember: The Politics Behind New York City's Holocaust Museum" (Holmes & Meier, 1996), said that the museum might "end up somehow as part of the memorialization of 9/11."

    "This is making it part of the community as well," she said.

    The museum's existing home is a three-story, 30,000-square-foot hexagonal structure with a ziggurat roof. It has room for a permanent exhibition — "Jewish Life a Century Ago" on the first floor, "War Against the Jews" on the second floor and "Jewish Renewal" on the third floor — but not much else.

    The four-story, 82,000-square-foot wing forms a gentle arc around the hexagon, to which it is linked on three floors. It is named for Mr. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, who is also the museum chairman.

    It is to be dedicated Monday and will open to the public on Wednesday. The first exhibition in the new wing, "Ours to Fight For: American Jews in the Second World War," begins on Oct. 21.

    This show will occupy a third-floor gallery, part of which will later become a center for the videotaped testimonies compiled by the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. The new wing has a 375-seat auditorium, Edmond J. Safra Hall; a rentable catering hall with seating for up to 370; the cafe, Abigael's at the Museum; classrooms; offices; and a gift shop.

    Between the buildings, in the Memorial Garden, is "Garden of Stones" by Mr. Goldsworthy, who was chosen in an invited competition sponsored by the museum and the Public Art Fund. Dwarf oak saplings will be planted this week and next in 18 hollowed-out boulders. (The Hebrew word for life, chai, carries the numerical value 18.) Seemingly growing right out of the rocks, the trees will symbolize the resilience of life in the most barren environment.

    Both buildings were designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates. The new wing cost $60 million, of which $30 million has come from New York City and $2.65 million from New York State. Donations, pledges and commitments amount to $18 million, Dr. Marwell said. The remaining $10 million is being covered by borrowing against a line of credit at Bank of America.

    In the tumble and noise of construction it is hard to believe that the building will be ready for its Monday debut. But Dr. Marwell exudes confidence. And the institution has a record of surviving travails.

    Efforts to create a Holocaust memorial in New York began in 1946, a year after World War II ended. A plaque still marks the first intended site, in Riverside Park, near 83rd Street.

    In 1981 Mayor Edward I. Koch appointed a task force that evolved into the Holocaust Memorial Commission, of which Mr. Morgenthau and the developer George Klein were co-chairmen. The museum was incorporated in 1984. Originally planned for the former Custom House on Bowling Green, its site was soon moved to Battery Park City under Gov. Mario M. Cuomo.

    Because the museum's fortunes were tied closely to contributions from the real estate industry, it suffered when the market collapsed in the late 80's. Construction did not begin until 1994. It opened Sept. 15, 1997.

    Four years later, enjoying the largest early-September attendance it had seen, the museum was planning to break ground for its new east wing.

    Then, on Sept. 11, it was engulfed with the rest of downtown in warlike chaos. Staff members watched helplessly as people trapped in the World Trade Center jumped to their deaths. When the south tower collapsed, Frank Camporeale, a building engineer, ran to the museum roof and managed to shut the vents and louvers to prevent debris and ash from infiltrating the space.

    Though the building emerged undamaged, it sat within the frozen zone. On Sept. 20 Dr. Marwell received his instructions from Mr. Morgenthau: "Open it up. Go forward. Don't break stride." After the checkpoint was moved north, the museum was able to reopen on Oct. 5.

    But the forecast for downtown was murky when Mr. Morgenthau resolved to go ahead with the east wing project. "I'm a great believer in momentum," he said in an interview. "If you sit back and say, `Let's see what's going to happen,' you're going to lose that. Besides, I didn't want those bums, those terrorists, to destroy what we wanted to achieve."

    Dr. Marwell said, "At that moment the wing became the Robert M. Morgenthau Wing for me." The naming, Mr. Morgenthau said, was something he resisted.

    Ground was broken Nov. 27, 2001. For a time trucks bound for the museum site with building materials were mixing in traffic with trucks leaving the trade center site with rubble and debris.

    "A significant part of our message here is rebuilding after tragedy," Dr. Marwell said. "It's unusual for people in our field to have an experience that makes their messages come to life in the palpable way this did."

    The Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is near the southern tip of Battery Park City, across Battery Place from the Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park. It is open Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.; Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October, after which closing is at 3 p.m. The museum is closed on Saturdays, major Jewish holidays and Thanksgiving.

    Admission is $10; $7 for 65+, $5 for students and free for children under 12. No admission will be charged for the Memorial Garden, opening on Wednesday, or the Abigael's at the Museum cafe in the new Robert M. Morgenthau Wing, opening later this month. Information: (212) 968-1800 or .

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

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  14. #14

    A land artist comes to lower Manhattan.
    Issue of 2003-09-22
    Posted 2003-09-15

    On a sultry morning in early August, the sculptor Andy Goldsworthy stood in a quarry in Stony Creek, Connecticut, watching the heart being burned out of a ten-ton granite boulder. Eighteen of these tawny-gray brutes, varying between three and fifteen tons, are to be scattered around a space measuring a hundred and twenty feet by thirty-five on the second-story roof terrace of the new extension of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, in Battery Park City. The hollowed rocks will then be filled with soil, and, on September 16th, Holocaust survivors will plant a dwarf chestnut-oak sapling in each one, creating a memorial Garden of Stones.

    Ten feet away from Goldsworthy, the stonecutter, Ed Monti (who is the son of an Italian immigrant quarryman), stood on an upended milk crate, draped in a yellow safety coat, his head masked by a black welder’s helmet, pointing a six-foot shoulder-mounted lance at the half-eaten core of the lichen-webbed rock. From the nozzle of the lance a propane-ignited mixture of kerosene and oxygen hit the stone at around four thousand degrees Fahrenheit, generating a jet-engine roar. Sprays of sparks erupted about Monti’s cowled head as the granite slowly yielded to his gouging flame. It can take twenty-two hours of this relentless attack to turn the largest boulders into scooped eggs.

    Amid the din, Goldsworthy, a wiry Englishman in his forties with a habitually frank and friendly expression, observed the burning intently. The rock surrenders to the fire, he said, because fire created it in the first place. But fire cleans as well as sculpts. Shooting flames at granite not only reënacts primordial geology but converts the incinerations of genocide into the flames of sanctification.

    Monti, a short, stocky man in his seventies, with a creased, nut-brown face, was unconcerned with these grand meditations. After about half an hour of concentrated fire, he descended from the milk crate and emerged from the helmet, haloed by clouds of steam produced by the cooling spray he runs at the same time as the fire-lance. He is more at home fashioning birdbaths and big neoclassical fountains, one of which was standing behind Goldsworthy’s boulders like a duchess stranded in low company. Monti, who drives to the quarry every day from Quincy, south of Boston, made no secret of the fact that the job is more perseverance than pleasure, since kerosene fumes got inside his mask and red-hot splinters of flying rock sometimes burned through his protective clothing. Goldsworthy, too, who has been often scarred, frozen, and lacerated while making his strenuously wrought pieces, showed off fresh burn marks acquired on the job. “Dangerous work—can get nasty,” Monti said in his flat Massachusetts accent, with a rueful smile. Jacob Ehrenberg, Goldsworthy’s imperturbable young project manager, has had to deal with operatic Monti specials: tantrums over pay; impromptu walkouts. But on this morning Monti went at it with a will, looking, with his helm and spear, decidedly archaic, like a warrior on an Attic vase.

    During a break from the burning, Goldsworthy, Ehrenberg, and I peered into the opened belly of the rock. The interior was speckled gray, with shreds of stone flaking away from the walls or pulverized into a granular silica, like sand on a beach, some of the grains glassily fused. John Ruskin’s feverishly beautiful passages on “Compact Crystallines,” in “Modern Painters,” came to mind, in which he describes the glitter of granite as looking “somewhat like that of a coarse piece of freshly broken loaf sugar.”

    The cavity is conical, a form that much preoccupies Goldsworthy, who often declares a debt to Brancusi. Monti was working from the opened base and down the narrowing funnel. Once hollowed, the rocks are inverted, so that the saplings can sit at the neck of the boulder, atop their bed of earth. The disproportion between the hefty stones and the tiny, six-inch plants may risk looking absurd, but it will at least preclude any possibility of the stones’ resembling the oversized planters commonplace in corporate atriums. Instead, a mysterious hatching will be inaugurated: the sprig from the rock.

    The growth process of the sprouting menhirs, standing between the Hudson and Ground Zero, will not, however, be risk-free. Tom Whitlow, a Cornell plant ecologist whom Goldsworthy consulted, warned that if the growing tree should press against its unyielding stone girdle it could crush the living cambium immediately beneath the bark. In that case, the root system would atrophy and die. But unlike many contemporary artists, fretful about their posterity, Goldsworthy incorporates the indeterminate outcomes of natural processes into most of his work. Sculptures created from found materials like ice and thorns, driftwood, and even bleached kangaroo bones all presuppose that artistic design will yield to the cycles of time and climate, whether over an hour or a decade.

    Sometimes misread as a placid pastoralist, Goldsworthy is in fact a dramaturge of nature’s temper, often fickle, often foul. A recent, very beautiful film of his work, “Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time,” must be one of the few documentaries in which an artist is seen enduring, repeatedly, the collapse of his own creation, as he attempts to build a cone of dark seashore stones. The idea, a dream of every seven-year-old sandcastle engineer, was that the cone should stand sentinel, almost submerged in the high tide, yet survive intact to reappear as the water receded. (After multiple failures, he finally pulls it off.) Similarly, Goldsworthy relishes the embattled growth of his dwarf chestnut oaks, contending with the jackhammer shaking of downtown construction, the judder of helicopter rotors on the riverbank, sudden gusts of estuarine winds, and the murky air of lower Manhattan. The plants’ fight for survival against the odds is meant as an emblem of the Jewish experience they memorialize. “The trees I wanted couldn’t be decorative,” he says. “They needed to be tough little S.O.B.s.”

    On August 22nd, three weeks before the inauguration of the Garden of Stones, the last boulders were hoisted into their positions on the museum roof, and it was already apparent that Goldsworthy’s sculpture would be one of the most powerful monuments in a city still struggling to find visual expressions for the tug between the perishable and the imperishable.

    "Land art”—the genre in which Goldsworthy works—began in the nineteen-sixties, as an attack on the embalming of raw nature by the aesthetics of landscape. Of all the genres of painting, landscape, with its window view of the world, its dependence on the illusion of depth, was arguably the one furthest from two-dimensional abstraction. Even flattened out, its pastoral lyricism was at the opposite pole from the street-smart edginess that agitated New York Abstract Expressionism. But some sort of modernist encounter with nature was still possible. The founders of American land art—Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, and Michael Heizer—aimed for an engagement with the outdoors that would break from the confinement of the rectangular frame; from freestanding sculpture that used a park or a landscape as an ornamental setting; and, above all, from the decorum of the gallery or the apartment wall. Instead of being a decorative placebo for urban angst, land art would, if anything, aggravate it, by frankly displaying what had become of the natural world in the age of industrial junk. The scenery—whether desert wilderness or the parking lots recorded in Smithson’s “Monuments of Passaic”—would, photographically, at least, call the shots.

    Land art was to be landscape’s come-uppance. The place would own the beholder, not the other way around, since to experience Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty,” at the Great Salt Lake, or the earthworks that Heizer cut into the desert one had to travel a very long way from Madison Avenue. What was left for the dealers to display and sell was nothing more than the secondhand trace of the authentic work out there in the wilderness: a photographic or cartographic record. Galleries dutifully filled up with lists, journal pages, rambling manifestos on entropy, and studiously amateurish photographs. The unreproducibility of the original epiphany was precisely the point.

    The response of British land artists to all these Big Sky-Bad Boy backhoe heroics was creative understatement laced with a smidgin of polite distaste. Trucking through the desert and shifting the dirt was fine for a country with millions of acres of unpopulated wilderness, but Britain was the opposite kind of place. Not an inch of its crowded landscape was unmarked by human occupation. So its land art needed to be practiced as though Wordsworth were still with us: it had to be respectful of ancient rights of way, reverently self-effacing. In 1967, Richard Long created “A Line Made by Walking”—a photograph of the darkened trail made by his tromping back and forth over the grass. The integrity of the piece assumed that Long’s line would be temporary and that, by the time most viewers saw the record, the bruising inflicted on the landscape would have been naturally repaired. Instead of nature brushworked into art, British land art proposed a brush with nature, its materials discovered rather than appropriated. Although nature, however fleeting the visitation, cannot, of course, take its own likeness, and although Long’s austere images were necessarily framed and staged, they rapidly acquired canonical status.

    In the late nineteen-seventies, Andy Goldsworthy, then a student at Preston Polytechnic, in Lancaster, went to hear a “lecture” by Long that turned out to be a slide show accompanied only by country-and-Western music. Asked if he would comment on the images, Long, in keeping with his reputation as a monkish pilgrim traipsing the upland, declined. Despite—or possibly because of—the performance, Goldsworthy, who had worked as a farm laborer just outside Leeds since he was thirteen, responded to the appeal, mutely offered by the slides, of making art outside with found materials. Most promising young artists would have made a beeline for London. But Goldsworthy, upon escaping the claustrophobia of the drawing cubicle, headed for the sweeping shore of the Lancashire coast at Morecambe Bay, and there made his first constructions in stone.

    Immediately, he encountered land art’s Catch-22: the need for a record. The record might be photographic, or it could consist of allusions to the real thing—circles of slate laid on the floor, for example. But as soon as the stones entered the gallery space, not to mention the inventory of dealers and the collections of patrons, they lost the flinty integrity that came with their “on site” isolation. Even the Zen-Puritan Long understood that his gnomic trails—map coördinates, numeric and textual itineraries—were too arid to hold the viewer’s interest, and he took to bringing into the gallery shorthand versions of his original experience. Whenever possible, the floor, rather than the wall—the conventional plane of display—was to be used, or, if the walls were covered, it was with exhibitions of thinly laid-on mud, not paint. The idea was to rough up museum manners by importing the raw fabric of outside work. Even so, when land art surrendered to the wine-and-cheese gallery opening, it had, by its purest lights, surrendered.

    Goldsworthy, however, believes—as a matter of historical fact and his own individual taste—that the social and the natural are not mutually exclusive. Making a virtue of a dilemma, he co-opts gallery space as a collaborator in natural process: covering the floor with clay taken from a construction site on the grounds and letting it harden and split into craquelure, outside and inside joined in an unhappy marriage; bringing in giant snowballs, stained with the natural dirt or dye of their origins, and allowing the melt to make an image on large sheets of paper, a visual history of self-dissolution.

    Alternatively, he makes the suburbs do unsuburban things, obliging them to remember the harder rural history over which they have been comfortably laid. A road-facing stone wall, built for a Westchester client, has embedded at its center a huge boulder that looks like an invader from glacial prehistory; another wall has a fallen tree trunk laid horizontally within the stones, guaranteeing, at some point, the wall’s collapse. Goldsworthy is drawn to social landscapes. Not for him the epic remoteness of Michael Heizer excavating a cut in the Nevada desert, or the solitary, imperially guilt-burdened peregrinations of Richard Long in the Andes or the Himalayas. Goldsworthy welcomes collaborations with wallers and shepherds (including neighbors in Dumfriesshire, in southern Scotland), pulling into his art the densely packed memories of human and animal occupation, limned through old hedges, cart tracks, and sheepfolds.

    One of Goldsworthy’s most spectacular and popular works is “The Storm King Wall,” built in 1997-98 for the Storm King sculpture park, in the Hudson Valley. It was made possible by an encounter with the debris of an old drystone wall, overrun, like most such walls in the valley, with second-growth forest when farming was abandoned. In contrast to most of the contemporary sculptures at Storm King, which are simply set in the landscape, Goldsworthy’s is of it. His snaking, 2,278-foot drystone line was built by wallers imported from the North of England, where curved walls are called “crinkle-crankle.” It reverses expectations in that the stones appear to move, while the stands of maple, shagbark hickory, and oak through which it travels resist their encroachment. (With time, root systems and wall foundations will conduct a pushing and shoving match.) Emerging from the woods, the line descends giddily into a pond and seems to resurface before climbing the far bank and getting itself straightened out, American fashion, as it heads directly for the perimeter highway.

    But there is “Wall,” the book, as well as wall, the work: one in a series of large-format volumes, published by Abrams, packed with dazzling photographs documenting Goldsworthy’s ephemeral works. There are pools dyed blood red with pigment rubbed from on-site iron-oxide rocks; translucent arches of ice destined to self-destruct in the winter sun; rocks smeared with peat to coal black; thrown clouds of sand or snow, photographed at the sprayed arc of their ascent; coronas of bracken stalks fastened with thorns and hung from trees; delicate strings of pale-green rush threaded about a mossy trunk. These high-color glossy images are the antithesis of the self-consciously primitive, grainy prints favored by the founders of land art, and they have been taken by Goldsworthy’s critics to be evidence that he is, at heart, an ornamentalist, a glamorist of nature who has made the mistake, serious in a contemporary artist, of hunting beauty. “Fiddling around with nature” was one such verdict. While Goldsworthy concedes that the books may have contributed to misunderstanding, he does not apologize for working with color, using it to load his work with emblematic and poetic allusion. A drape of autumnal elm leaves about a rock documents, through the belying brilliance of its yellow, the doom of the diseased species of tree; a line of fleece laid atop a Dumfriesshire drystone wall invokes a sorry history, when entire rural populations were cleared to make way for sheep.

    Goldsworthy’s work has been widely exhibited and praised on three continents, but it has yet to be acquired by the Tate Collection, the pantheon of British modernism. The omission is predictable, for the work’s peculiar virtues—its moral intensity; its Ruskinian devotion to work and craft; its scientific curiosity; its intelligent engagement with the long history of land use; its keen instinct for the baroque hyperbole of the natural world (all those mottlings and juttings and peelings and stainings)—are precisely what is least likely to recommend it to the contemporary canon. Yet it could be argued that Goldsworthy’s work is at least as conceptually rich as Smithson’s; his compressions of space and water as metaphysically suggestive as the sculpture of Anish Kapoor; his use of found materials as inflected with past use and future alteration as the wood pieces of his friend David Nash; and his meditations on decay, mortality, and generation as smart as Damien Hirst’s.

    But the connoisseurs of decomposition are overwhelmingly urban, and walls generally capture their interest only when scrawled with graffiti. Goldsworthy, too, plays in the junk yards of the world, but his are strewn with the rubble of the eons, not last night’s Chinese take-away. And then he is obstinately indifferent to cool, impervious to the laconic game-playing required for certification in conceptual subtlety. He has never made a secret of valuing clarity over irony and northern plainness over metropolitan chic. When, in the late eighties, his former dealer, Fabian Carlsson, offered him a long-term contract on condition that he move to London, the price was too high.

    What is he doing, then, in downtown Manhattan? The commission from the Museum of Jewish Heritage (in collaboration with the Public Art Fund) is in essence an attempt to realize a natural process of catastrophe and redemption. No one encountering the stone garden will think it the work of a decorative artist. It is, instead, an encounter with the elemental. The benches are made of granite.

    This is not to say that Goldsworthy wants the boulders to look as though they had just dropped in from the cosmos. The white scuff marks he has left on them testify to their many migrations: from fields near Barre, Vermont, where Goldsworthy and Ehrenberg discovered them, to the Connecticut quarry where they were hollowed, and thence to a Brooklyn holding yard, from which, finally, they were moved to Battery Park City and crane-lifted, gingerly, onto the roof of the museum. The fact that the stones had long ago been cleared from their original geological site by farmers needing agricultural land was a plus for Goldsworthy, though he had to convince one incensed member of a local commune that he was not uprooting the rocks from an ancestral resting place. But wandering stones seem right for a Jewish memorial garden, especially one that faces outward across the broad slate-green river to merciful stopping places: Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Goldsworthy, who has himself travelled a good deal in the making of his work, felt the weight of impending repose as the last boulders were moved onto the roof.

    Much was still to be done. The concrete plinths on which the boulders are settled needed to be covered, along with the rest of the garden bed, with the gold-brown gravel that Goldsworthy had chosen to set off his gray monoliths. A watering system for the trees had to be installed and tested. The garden space is contained on two sides by five-foot walls made of granite panels. Atop one wall is a planter running the length of the space, which is to be filled with flowers and shrubs, and Goldsworthy worries that this will prettify the meditative austerity of the site. Worse still, as rock No. 15 was lowered to the roof terrace, Goldsworthy learned that a corner jutting over the garden, and in the view of anyone looking toward the harbor, might be covered by a trellis. The coming of creepers does not make him happy. But for the moment the work seems wonderfully well done, a poignant metaphysical conceit strongly realized, the crush and mass of history penetrated by the germination of hope.

    The derrick men, led by their athletic crew boss, J. B. Jones, from Blakely, Georgia, sporting a nifty head scarf and with more graceful moves than Alvin Ailey, have got into the spirit of the thing. As one of the last of the boulders drifts, seemingly weightless, onto its receiving plinth, J.B. talks the rock down, shouting, “Whoa! Treat the lady nice and easy,” and yells to Goldsworthy as the titan settles, “You like? You like?” He does.

  15. #15


    Museum of Jewish Heritage

    The museum wing is open. Exterior paving and landscaping are not yet complete, and some work on the connection to the main building remains.

    1st Place, the dead-end street on the right side of photo 5, has always remained closed for security reasons. The current plan is to de-map the street, and convert it into a landscaped space.

    Andy Goldsworthy

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