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This summer at Storm King artist Mark Dion reimagines the landscape with "Follies"
Installation view. Photo: Dana Sherwood.

MOUNTAINVILLE, NY.- Storm King Art Center is presenting Mark Dion: Follies, through November 11, 2019, the first exhibition to unite Mark Dion’s signature folly works into a major survey. Since the mid-1990s, Dion has frequently employed the form of the architectural folly—a compact, decorative structure intended to inspire meaning rather than serve a functional purpose—to create intricate tableaus and house displays of a wide range of delicate and specific objects. Dion’s practice investigates intersections between culture and nature in myriad of ways, and the enclosures of his follies have allowed him to create works with a complexity of visual material that would otherwise not be possible in public or outdoor spaces.

Mark Dion: Follies features 13 examples created throughout the past quarter of a century, many of which have been recreated in slightly altered forms to respond to their new site at Storm King.

A selection of Dion’s drawings and prints on display in the Museum Building present the artist’s process in arriving at these works, and show them to be part of a lifelong pursuit in Dion’s work. Other drawings depict follies not included in the exhibition in architectural form, and others that Dion has imagined but not built.

“We’re thrilled to present the work of Mark Dion, and to highlight such an important and prominent part of his practice,” says Storm King President, John P. Stern.

The organizers of the exhibition are Nora Lawrence, Senior Curator; David Collens, Director and Chief Curator; and Sarah Diver, Curatorial Assistant.

“Mark Dion’s work is deeply invested in exploring our relationship to the natural world, and by reimagining these works within the context of Storm King’s site, our presentation injects these works with new, site-sensitive meanings,” says Lawrence.

“So much of my work is motivated by my deep awe of, and interest in, the natural world,” said Dion. “Presenting these works together within the panorama of Storm King’s landscape brings their relationship with nature to the fore, and provides an incredible opportunity to re-examine the follies through this lens.”

Installed both indoors and outdoors in various locations across Storm King’s 500 acres, works in the exhibition offer visitors a variety of viewing experiences: some are intended to be experienced from the exterior, or by peering through windows and doors, while others can be entered.

Outdoor works include Dion’s Grotto of the Sleeping Bear (1997/2019), previously staged at Skulptur Projekte Mnster in 1997, which comprises a plush, stuffed bear inside a stone-and-tree branch cave, sleeping amongst a collection of leaves, twigs, and farming tools. Dion has often used bears in his installations as a way to think about human beings’ relationship to their environment. Grotto of the Sleeping Bear is located in a natural concavity in Storm King’s North Woods, a particularly fitting setting for the work.

A newly created site-specific work, titled Storm King Environmental Field Station (2019), facilitates the study of natural phenomena and acts as a gathering place for ecologists, natural historians, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. This field station uses a repurposed steel rainwater collection vessel as its structure, and its interior contains the tools necessary for scientific discovery and is staged as a usable classroom. Dion first began creating functional outdoor laboratories as artworks in the early 1990s and has since created numerous iterations similar to this work, each sensitive to its surroundings and context. Related education and public programming will take place inside and outside of this work throughout Storm King’s 2019 season.

The exhibition also includes Buffalo Bayou Invasive Plant Eradication Unit (2011), a functional truck that serves as a mobile workstation, laboratory, and library that visitors may enter. The work was originally commissioned by Houston-based organizations the Houston Arts Alliance and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership. Dion responded to a key challenge facing that city’s wetlands: the proliferation of non-native species. Dion’s mobile unit is not only a work of art, it also serves as an outreach and education tool, raising awareness of the species of invasive plants that threaten the biodiversity of the area. Blurring the distinction between the truck’s status as artwork and a functional tool is, as Dion has stated, “how an artist today makes a consideration of the landscape.”

The exhibition features two examples from Dion’s series of six hunting blinds—structures that hide hunters from their targets while allowing them to shoot from long, horizontal windows—each of which reflects the different personalities that might be attracted to the sport. Hunting Blind (The Dandy Rococo) (2008/2019) is sited on a small peninsula overlooking Storm King’s ponds and covered in phragmites, a vigorous reed found in wetland habitats, to camouflage its structure in this aquatic setting. Inside, however, is an elegant sitting room complete with ornate, eighteenth-century finishes. This folly sets the stage for a hunter who revels in the fineries and culture of the sport, highlighting one of many reasons a person might choose to hunt. Hunting Blind (The Glutton) (2008/2019) is situated at the edge of Storm King’s peripheral wooded areas. Inside, the table is set for a lavish dinner, complete with many camouflage accoutrements, and all that’s missing is the main course. The sumptuous accompaniments for a meal reveal one reason for pursuing an animal: a primal feast.

Recently featured in Storm King’s 2018 exhibition, Indicators: Artists on Climate Change, Dion’s Field Station for the Melancholy Marine Biologist (2017-18) remains on view as part of Mark Dion: Follies. Much of the contents of this weathered wooden cabin, which include the trappings of a scientific lab station and the imagined belongings of a marine biologist, directly relate to the ecology of Storm King’s site.

The Dark Museum (2011/2019) is comprised of a wooden shack located in Storm King’s Maple Rooms with a resin-cast manatee skeleton seemingly plucked from the halls of a natural history museum or a cabinet of curiosities inside the structure. Visitors are invited to enter this work and observe the manatee in its glass vitrine. The role of a museumgoer is a recurring point of interest in Dion’s work, and The Dark Museum upends the typical experience of visiting a museum by offering a similar encounter within an unexpected venue. Nearby, Memento Mori (My Glass is Run) (2004) takes the form of a cemetery for famed naturalists who worked in and around the Northeast in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, such as Jane Colden, a botanist who contributed significant scholarship classifying New York’s plant life. Along with their names, Dion has inscribed colonial-era imagery and epitaphs for these figures onto the tombstones that make up the work.

Sited on Storm King’s Museum Hill, the Conservatory for Confectionery Curiosities (2008/2019) is an octagonal glass greenhouse whose style is typical of a courtly garden. The structure houses a display of cast-resin desserts in various sizes, shapes, and colors, with insects—such beetles and flies—stuck to their surfaces. A collaboration between Mark Dion and artist Dana Sherwood, the greenhouse is an iteration of a work originally exhibited in the Tuileries public garden in Paris.

Dion’s The Memory Box (2015), a shed filled with hundreds of small boxes that viewers can open and explore, each containing tokens or mementos, is on view in Storm King’s Museum Building. Bureau of Censorship (1996/2019), also on view indoors, is a cottage-like structure with all the trappings of a well-frequented office inside: a desk, an old computer, cardigans and a coal stove, a Chinese take-out box, hundreds of paperback books, and a large collection of scissors. Through the window, this scene provides ample clues as to the daily tasks and psyche of the illusory bureaucrat who might work here, playfully addressing the concept of “censorship.”

Brontosaurus (2016) challenges the common perception of pedestals as neutral platforms for displaying works of art, instead elevating a large green dinosaur that appears to have tracked tar across its surface. Moreover, it appears as if a hidden door on the pedestal has been left ajar, revealing a compartment full of cleaning supplies. Also on view in the Museum Building is Dion’s Lemonade Stand (1996), as well as a number of drawings, collages, photographs, and field guides by the artist, which offer additional insight into his practice.

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