Monday, September 9, 2013

Day 54: West Haven to Harrisburg, PA; DIA

The route was a big issue today because the shortest route was through New York City, which Captain Dan preferred to avoid. So he came up with the idea of swinging through Beacon, New York, and upstate New York. This had the advantage of enabling us to make our second visit to an art museum called Dia: Beacon. The problem was that Dan didn't explain to me the advantages of staying away from the whole east coast traffic corridor, so the route I chose from Beacon to Harrisburg took us south through New Jersey and eastern Pennysylvania on a highway that was almost bumper to bumper with semi trucks for over two hours. This route was supposed to save a half hour, according to the iPad mapper, but it was a nightmare. I felt terrible about my choice. It would have been more pleasant to drive east to Scranton, then head south.

Anyway, we enjoyed our review of Dia: Beacon, a privately funded museum of Minimalist art. Artists working in the minimalism movement of the last half of the twentieth century were concerned with very abstract concepts, like spatial relationships and shapes. They favored a sort of economy of means—sparing use of color, simplicity of material—but they tended to work on a very large scale, or to develop a theme in an incremental manner that took up a lot of space. The museum occupies a converted factory, so it is one of the few places in the country that can exhibit a large number of minimalist works.

Strangely, I love about half the artists exhibited at the museum, but the others strike me as irrelevant or ridiculous. Since photography was not allowed, all I can do is list the best stuff.

Dan Flavin explored all the possible arrangements of six white fluorescent tubes, in a hallway that extended for 150 feet.

Sol LeWitt was represented by a dozen or more wall drawings from when he was still using pencils and chalk.

Richard Serra designed huge, rolled steel plates into unique free-standing shapes called torqued ellipses. Four of these behemoths were lined up in a long hallway.

Michael Heizer has four large, differently shaped caverns in the floor of one gallery and a huge stone monolith in another.

Donald Judd is represented by innumerable 3 1/2 feet square plywood cubes in different configurations, plus several wall-mounted works.

Robert Irwin designed the highly geometrical landscaping.

After a quick lunch in their minimal cafĂ©, we drove down to a park on the shore of the Hudson River, where a riverfront sculpture consisting of a new boardwalk and a terraced angling deck makes the waterfront more accessible to the public. Called Beacon Point, it was designed by landscape artist George Trakas and dedicated in 2007.  We enjoyed the views of the water and the city of Newburgh on the opposite shore.

Then we had the horrible drive to Harrisburg.

Our Comfort Inn Riverfront in Harrisburg is right on the Susquehanna river. From our room, it was about 20 paces to the broad, calm river. What makes it more exciting is a roaring freeway bridge on the left and a beautiful, arched railway bridge on the other. It is very pretty to see the reflections of the bridges in the water.

On the same property as the motel is a restaurant called Passage to India that Dan had enjoyed on our last visit to Harrisburg. He was pleased to see it was still open and reported that the cuisine was very refined. I had had enough to eat for the day.