Monday, May 14, 2007

Wallace Harrison and Nelson Rockefeller's Empire State Plaza

Wow, there is an AMAZING collection of art at the Empire State Plaza. I've always loved this place architecturally, but really had no idea about the art... most of it in the concourse directly below the plaza.

Okay, a little background. The Empire State Plaza is an Albany, NY centerpiece.. an elevated grouping of several state buildings around a central plaza. All of it is from the 1970's, except for the New York State Capitol at one end. As kids we know this place because of The Egg (and here's an unusual view) and as a place for ice-skating in winter; I'd never thought of it as an art destination.

We visited last weekend and I was excited to take note of all of the sculpture on the plaza... George Rickey, Ellsworth Kelly, Alexander Calder, Claes Oldenburg, and many others... when I saw a security guard I asked if there was a list of all the artists represented and he took me into the Egg and down into this concourse level which I had never known existed. It's a huge hallway under the plaza, connecting everything.... and FILLED with more stuff. The guard got me the list of all the artists in the collection, way more than I was expecting, and so I had to come back another day to see it.

Allan D'Arcangelo, American Landscape, 1967. I was thrilled to find both this and a Nicholas Krushenick... last time I saw them they were also both in VMFA's Speed.

Almost everything in the collection is from late 1960's New York... they must have been acquiring and commissioning work as the Plaza was being built. High Times, Hard Times picks up pretty much exactly where this work leaves off... really nice to see this having seen High Times, Hard Times.

Nicholas Krushenick is the subject of what looks like an excellent survey show at Marianne Boesky right now... serious thanks, James Kalm.

Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1966. This piece is at the end of a looong Al Held.

It's like Logan's Run. I don't remember who did this piece, only half of which is visible here.

From far left: Pollock, Kline, Rothko, Frankenthaler, Louis, Still. It's staggering...

The Pollock is gorgeous, lots of poured soaked paint... yellow, blue, silver, brown, black. This was the only piece I saw that didn't have a sign, although the old frame had a small thing affixed to it which gave the title as Number 12, from 1952. I'm wondering if there is no sign because there are some attribution questions or something? I know there is another Jackson Pollock also called Number 12, but from 1949. Whatever this piece is, it's lush.

Without Pollock we would have no Frankenthaler, and without Frankenthaler we would not know Louis... so this stainy Pollock is a good one to show with those two.

Another good painting by an artist whose name I can't recall.... it's like a Kristin Baker done by Ben Shahn, which I guess means it's better than a Kristin Baker.

UPDATE: The above artist is Robert Goodnough. Thank you, kind reader. More on the mysterious Goodnough here.

Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol, Portrait of Nelson Rockefeller, 1967 - Rockefeller was the governor... the whole plaza was his idea; Wallace Harrison was the architect. I truly can't imagine a politician today making an art and architecture project like this happen.

others to see - Philip Guston, Jack Youngerman, a huge Alfred Jensen, Jack Tworkov, Grace Hartigan, a grouping of David Smith, Donald Judd, Al Loving, Louise Nevelson, Larry Zox, and much MORE.


Peter said...

Holy cow, the Allan D'Arcangelo looks just like a mashup of two Cory Arcangel pieces(mario clouds and F1 Racer)

Anonymous said...

yeah, allan is cory's great-uncle or something... click on my link to the speed show at vmfa.

oh, i saw you did a juxtaposition, looks nice!

hey peter, you're from albany, right? had you ever been down and seen what was in this concourse? i didn't know it was here.

Peter said...

Yeah, we used to live right up in center square and you could go all over the place down there all night.(so we did) There is some sculpture stuff on the ground floor of the big tower as well...and the legislative office building is just sort of amazing, it's this huge marble space, i ended up having nightmares about it as a kid because I was so overwhelmed by it.

You used to also be able to walk around the capital, anywhere you wanted, which was totally amazing, the million dollar staircase and the doors to the senate room are incredible.
and i did know that cory is related to d'arcangelo. I did not know that the painting in the concourse was by him though... I am just amazed at the coincidence of it....cheers martin.

Peter said...

Me again, didn't realize you had done the earlier post about the VMFA speed exhibit....that is so funny......somebody should right a paper.

Anonymous said...

Hi -the picture you have of "logans run "has a little history--when building that building the marble was framed too large in width so the builders added a stripe to the end of the work to make it fit the frame.. just thought you would like to know..
it was call the "tube of toothpaste "by the builders at that time..my husband built the plaza for ten years.. it was wonderful to live in the Albany area during those years.

Martin said...

hi, thanks, i will definitely take a closer look at that next time i'm near there.

Anonymous said...

The piece you call "logans run" I'm pretty certain is by the artist Sven Lukin.