Sculpture for a New Season
One long-awaited sign that it is not only safe to go outdoors, it might even be pleasant, is the opening of LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton. As thousands of daffodils reach their April peak, the garden is at its spring finest — a happy but sometimes elusive confluence, as Matko Tomcic admitted Saturday during a sunny walk through the grounds.
Every year, the center for garden and art appreciation switches out some of its sculpture installations for new works. This year, LongHouse’s arts committee has made some bold and dramatic selections well suited for the unique environment.
Works from Grace Knowlton’s “Spheres,” in rebar, mesh, and aluminum wire, are set along the dunes near the entrance. They are as playful as they are substantial, suggesting anything from planets to hamster exercise balls or cannon shot. Here, they are mainly the size of stability balls, but can range down to the size of a medicine ball when made in other materials such as clay or concrete. The artist calls them her way of “painting in the round.” Ms. Knowlton, who is in her 80s, made these pieces last year.
The “Eye of the Ring” by Takashi Soga, a kinetic sculpture in bronze and steel, is a showstopper with its cantilevered design, a contrast of planar and round. A large ring suspended above seems to defy gravity with a system of counterbalances as it moves, almost imperceptibly at first; then, once noticed, undeniably.
On top of beds of green groundcover lie Kiki Smith’s “Women With Sheep,” an assemblage of six bronze figures that seem plucked from an Edward Gorey fairy tale. Whether they are the stuff of bad dreams or having the nightmares themselves, there is nonetheless something peaceful about their rest.
Ronald Bladen’s “Host of the Ellipse (Garden Scale)” from 1981 is all sharp angles and painted aluminum menace, yet manages to look reflective set on an end of the “Black Mirror” pool. The artist went from following the lead of David Smith and Isamu Noguchi in the 1950s to leading the charge of Minimalist sculpture and influencing Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt in the next decade.
Like a colossus, Sui Jianguo’s “Legacy Mantle (Mao Jacket),” a 2002 cast-iron work, rises some 10 feet above the lawn, a symbol of Mao’s dominance depicting the style of clothing he mandated. From a series begun in the late 1990s, this sculpture is one example of several executed in aluminum, fiberglass, and other materials. The Social Realist style once favored by repressive regimes has been made to look fantastical and ridiculous just by an adjustment of scale or the use of a dayglow color. The trope of the empty suit adds to the satire.
LongHouse’s official opening will take place on Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. Admission is $10, free for members. Twilight tours and sound meditation will return this summer along with the popular Planters: On + Off the Ground competition in June. A special exhibition devoted to surfboard design will open on July 31. The annual benefit, this year honoring Ms. Smith, will take place on July 18.