It's now been 30 years since a group of Astoria artists took it upon themselves to clean up what was then an illegal dump at the far end of Broadway, transforming this spit of land hard by the East River into the Socrates Sculpture Park. To mark the park's 30th Anniversary, this year's summer exhibition is called Landmark, and features eight new commissioned works that play on themes of change and regeneration.
The centerpiece of Landmark is Meg Webster's Concave Room For Bees, a huge earthwork bowl that's 70 feet in diameter, with sloping walls made from some 400 cubic yards of fertile soil. The interior of the "room", into which you are welcome to enter, is lush with native flowers and herbs to attract pollinating bees and spread the love. This sculpture will obviously evolve over the course of the season.
Other works include Abigail DeVille's Half Moon, a representation of Henry Hudson's (wrecked) ship made from items reclaimed from a landfill; Jessica Segall's Fugue in B, for which she turned a salvaged piano into an active bee hive; and Cool Stories for When the Planet Gets Hot, a shipping container "theater" that runs short videos on climate change from the collective ARTPORT_making waves.
But the installation appreciated most immediately yesterday by the dozens of locals who came out on the gloriously sunny afternoon was Jonathon Odom's Open Seating, a series of 50 ratchet chairs scattered about the space. This really is a pretty place, remnants of a massive mud puddle notwithstanding, with lovely East River views (and breezes), ample lawns, and shady nooks. Definitely worth the trip a couple of times a year for non-Astorians.
The Socrates Sculpture Park is located at 3201 Vernon Boulevard at the western end of Broadway in Astoria, Queens. The park is open every day from 10:00 a.m. until sunset, and admission is always free.