DROGA Von Rydingsvard's sculpture is about ancient, elemental, sublime forces — it has to be big enough to bowl you over.
A sign explaining Andy Goldsworthy's proposed Snow House for DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is propitious. It asserts, "The project represents the next and most ambitious in a series of new sculpture acquisitions aimed at advancing DeCordova's goal of becoming one of the nation's premier sculpture parks by 2020."
Goldsworthy straddles land art and environmental art. The British artist turns the materials of the natural landscape into delicate nebulas of autumn leaves, stick huts, icicle stars, and fieldstone walls or cairns. His outdoor installations are often temporary, washed away by weather or the sea, and speak movingly of natural cycles of creation and rot.
In "Snow," a small exhibit at DeCordova of Goldsworthy's sketches and photographs of past snow works, he proposes to dig a cave into a hillside on the museum's 35-acre property and line this Snow House with stones like a sort of stone igloo or cairn or tomb. Each winter after a "considerable snowfall," DeCordova staff and local community groups would fashion a nine-foot-wide snowball and shut it up inside until summer, when the cave would be opened to visitors and the snowball inside would melt over a week or so. The design acknowledges the local climate, whispers of global warming, and reflects the region's history in the ice industry (though Goldsworthy's design more resembles ice houses of 18th century English estates rather than 19th century American ice warehouses). And it offers a sort of magic — a giant snowball appearing during the peak of summer.
>> SLIDESHOW: "Andy Goldsworthy and Ursula von Rydingsvard at the DeCordova" <<
But Goldsworthy is known for being a hands-on artist, and it feels —as least on paper — like a letdown that he'll set this thing running and then will no longer be involved. DeCordova frames this as an exciting extension of Goldworthy's practice: "Throughout his career, this artist has been happy to relinquish control, but to nature alone as sun, wind, and water erode, efface, and ultimately reclaim his work. Now, for the first time, the artist will engage in a partnership with an institution and its local communities, who will be responsible for a work of art that must be perpetually tended and re-created."
Since Dennis Kois became DeCordova's director in June 2008, he's made it clear that his mission is to make the institution a major player in sculpture. He's landed millions in funding to make it happen. And you can see how the Goldsworthy project checks a number of boxes. Goldsworthy is a major name in sculpture (though he doesn't quite live up to DeCordova's description that he "may well be the world's best-known and most beloved contemporary artist"). Snow House would be an outdoor installation that emphasizes DeCordova's sculpture park. It would make DeCordova the "only institution in New England to have a major site-specific installation by Andy Goldsworthy." Done right, it could begin to make DeCordova an art-world destination.