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6/30/11
How to Build a Forest and an Urban Park
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How to Build a Forest. Photo by Timothy Atticus.

I visited How to Build a Forest at the Kitchen last weekend after trudging along the packed new High Line section. The High Line seems to embody all of New York’s faith and hope in the future of urbanity, alchemically mixing the sacred concepts of reuse, ingenious design, and urban park space. But its popularity is a curse; it’s now so crowded, it’s like riding a moving sidewalk in an airport. In any case, let’s hope its success inspires other similar urban spaces.

In stark contrast, PearlDamour and Shawn Hall’s How to Build a Forest was a real-time work in process, the construction of a forest from a variety of manmade materials whose natural sources were diagrammed in an elegant guide. The audience was free to come and go over eight-hour periods on Saturday and Sunday, and to walk among the numerous collaborators onstage (including removing shoes and getting polled on clothing makes). I entered at a seemingly fallow period, when nothing in particular was obviously happening, but eventually one of the fabric “trunks” was raised quickly, like a sail going up a mast. I missed the afternoon’s big action (as recounted by a friend)—the raising of a multi-limbed tree. But during my contemplative time there, I was reminded of a promenade through one of Florida’s giant swamps—it seemed absolutely dead and devoid of life at first, but once I let my senses relax into the surrounds, abundant details came to light. How to Build a Forest brings into focus the consequences of our rabid consumerism, and how little we as a species care about the lasting impact. It was done with care, thoughtfulness, and teamwork, a lesson to apply toward the earth’s health.

In between the absurd and sublime, I took in a few galleries. Highlights were small-scale fabric works by Louise Bourgeois (closed), done in the final years of her life, at Cheim & Reid. This brilliant artist managed to evoke complicated human relationships through stunning, simple silk panels, their patterns juxtaposed strategically. Matthew Marks is showing Jasper Johns’ bronze panels based on his number series (through July 1); the interest emerges in camouflaged motifs and newspaper time-stamps on the versos. And at Robert Miller (who sadly just passed away), Robert Greene’s intriguing, richly detailed, multi-colored oil-on-vellum-strip abstractions felt fresh and modestly, explosively bold (closed).

  • Nancy Wozny

    I saw an early version of this piece in Houston. Lisa and Katie are two of the most interesting theater/environment people I know.

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SundayArts is made possible in part by First Republic Bank and by the Rubin Museum of Art. Funding for SundayArts is also made possible by Rosalind P. Walter, The Paul and Irma Milstein Foundation, The Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown, Jody and John Arnhold, and The Lemberg Foundation. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional funding provided by members of THIRTEEN.