Dennis Oppenheim: Terrestrial Studio

The New York Times ran an art review in 2016 covering Sculptor Dennis Oppenheim’s lifelong pursuit to bring art to the outdoors by integrating art and nature.  His approach (in retrospective), “Dennis Oppenheim: Terrestrial Studio,” continues through Nov. 13 at Storm King Art Center, 1 Museum Road, New Windsor, N.Y.; 845-534-3115.

You might be amazed, his public collections list reads like an anthology to the American Art Museum, they’re almost all there. Likely because, in addition to the work’s merit, he’d been at it so very long. Oppenheim received a B.F.A. from the School of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, California, in 1965, and an M.F.A. from Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, in 1966. He received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1969, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in 1974 and 1982, an Excellence in Transportation award from the State of California in 2003, and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale.

Five years ago, The New York Times in 2011, said this.

[Oppenheim] first became known for works in which, like an environmentally inclined Marcel Duchamp, using engineers’ stakes and photographs, he simply designated parts of the urban landscape as artworks. Then, in step with artists like Robert Smithson, Walter De Maria and Lawrence Weiner, he began making temporary outdoor sculptures, soon to be known as land art or earthworks. “Landslide,” from 1968, for example, was an immense bank of loose dirt near Exit 52 of the Long Island Expressway in central Long Island that he punctuated with rows of steplike right angles made of painted wood.

In other earthworks he cut abstract configurations in fields of wheat; traced the rings of a tree’s growth, much enlarged, in snow; and created a sprawling white square (one of Modernism’s basic motifs) with salt in downtown Manhattan…Mr. Oppenheim’s best work had a transparency, almost an obviousness, that could seem hokey. But it also took the notion of communication seriously. It refused to talk down.

Yet, the question remains.  In a culture of phone zombies, has art viewing significantly transitioned to the external land-based forum?  And can public art on the field (or the water or sky) be as pertinent and challenging (and changing) as its indoor two dimensional counterparts?  Is it enough to break us away from our screens?