Before J and I went to the deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park on Sunday, I was frankly undecided about Orly Genger’s monumental installation “Red, Yellow and Blue,” which was recently unveiled there. I knew the piece was big: according to the deCordova’s website, “The work is comprised of 1.4 million feet of rope collected from the Eastern seaboard and 3,500 gallons of paint, weighing in at over 100,000 pounds.”
Apart from the sheer “gee whiz” factor of someone taking the time to knot, paint, and arrange that much rope on the deCordova’s sprawling grounds, I didn’t initially get the point of the piece. In paper or pixels, it didn’t make sense. Why go to the effort of making what looked to be a brightly colored, giant macramé fence?
Like any monumental installation, however, Genger’s “Red, Yellow and Blue” has to be experienced in person to be fully appreciated. In short, the work grew on me as soon as J and I started walking along it. You can’t take in the entirety of “Red, Yellow and Blue” in a single glance or from a single vantage point. Instead, the work unwinds like a panorama, with your own two feet giving the work its impetus.
“Red, Yellow and Blue” first appeared in New York’s Madison Square Park, where the red, yellow, and blue segments were displayed separately, the size of the park defining the work’s shape. At the deCordova, however, the piece has room to roam, running along an undulating ridge of grassy fields, rocky outcrops, and meandering road. You don’t so much stand and admire “Red, Yellow and Blue” as much as you follow in its footsteps, skirting its curves as if it were a river or stonewall.
In this regard, “Red, Yellow and Blue” reminded me of another (temporary) New York installation: Christo’s “The Gates,” which I’d visited (and blogged) back in 2005. Before I saw the saffron curtains that Christo and Jeanne-Claude placed in Central Park, I didn’t “get” that project either: what is the point of decorating a landscape that looks fine bare?
What I took from “The Gates,” however, was the experience of walking them: Central Park looks fine without saffron curtains, but that added element invites you to revisit and redefine your relationship with the place. Instead of casually walking by the same old landscape, suddenly you notice that landscape in a new and different way. Like Wallace Stevens’ jar in Tennessee, acres of saffron cloth or miles of knotted rope bring order to chaos, transforming ordinary Nature into the stuff of Art.
After we’d returned home from the deCordova, I viewed this slideshow of the work’s creation, which gave me a whole new appreciation for the technical difficulty of transforming miles of rope into something monumental.
But even before we’d left the deCordova, J and I got a glimpse into the logistics of Genger’s installation. Before returning to our car, J and I joked about a line of shrink-wrapped pallets arranged at the end of the parking lot. Did these contain landscaping materials, were they the stuff of another installation, or were they themselves a work of art?
A closer look revealed that these pallets contained sections of knotted rope, sorted by color, that remained from the piece’s installation earlier this month. Are the leftover raw materials from a monumental installation themselves art? I’m not sure, but this much I know: I’ll never look at the grounds or parking lot of the deCordova Sculpture Park in exactly the same way ever again.
This is my Day 14 contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.