GHENT — Art Omi has provided a simple solution to showcasing art and architecture that wasn’t meant to be placed inside: let it occupy 120 acres of rolling hills and wooded paths, rain or shine.
But the placement of new works within the Sculpture & Architecture Park is not a haphazard process. Pieces are installed in specific locations to best line up with both the artists and Art Omi’s intentions, according to the center’s Architecture Curator and Architecture Residency Program Director Julia van den Hout.
“I like being able to showcase architecture through a variety of means and scales,” she said. “What I look for with works is that they really represent architecture from as many different points of view as possible.”
On Saturday, June 24, Art Omi will celebrate the opening of two new architectural installations in the Sculpture & Architecture Park. “Groundwork,” designed by AD—WO, and “Bivouac for Models” by Jon Lott of Para Project were both selectively placed within the park.
According to Founding Partner of AD—WO Jen Wood, “Groundwork” was always meant to be on a slope of some kind.
“We wanted it to feel like it was sort of embedded in the ground and perhaps unstable and kind of slipping,” she said. “We noticed this dark patch of flowers on the hill in the distance, and we thought it’d be interesting to engage with that existing kind of blip in the landscape.”
Founding principal of Para Project Jon Lott chose to install “Bivouac for Models” on a wooded path that connects the two main architectural fields of the park. Previously, no other work had occupied this location.
“I think it is a good marker of kind of activating this path and encouraging people to stop and look around,” van den Hout said.
Van den Hout personally reached out to both AD—WO and Lott when considering what new works she wanted Art Omi to commission for the year. Typically, the park installs two to three architectural pieces every summer and exchanges old works for new ones every couple of years.
“It’s hard to let go of these pieces — they become such a part of the park,” van den Hout said. “But we do really always like to be able to bring in new pieces.”
The construction of “Groundwork” was completed on-site in mid-May, according to Wood. The work is composed of local stone — the same stone used by the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohicans — and a patch of alfalfa, which forms a shadow.
“We’ve intentionally left the space between each stone open, so things will be growing, the stone will be shifting, and all of that becomes a part of the piece,” AD—WO Founding Partner Emanuel Admassu explained. Both he and Wood are interested in seeing how the work will change with the seasons.
“We’re thinking of the project as very much still being in construction,” Wood said. “We’ve designed it, the stonemason has laid it, but it’s still kind of being handed over to the ground now to continue the process.”
Both Wood and Admassu also discussed the project’s engagement with the history of the site it resides on.
“We’re interested in playing with the limits of legibility, and how certain aspects of this project will be illegible for a lot of the audience, and certain aspects of it will be super legible for some people who really know the history of the indigenous community here,” Admassu said.
“There’s this nuanced translation that happens between indigenous relations to land, which is really about stewardship and caring for the land and sharing the land, versus the superimposition of the settler-Colonial attitude, which is saying this land needs to be productive,” he explained. AD—WO is trying to understand that nuance between these two approaches in their use of local stone.
Lott and Para Project arrived on site in June and completed construction of “Bivouac for Models” within the span of about one week. Lott described the work as a “scalar study,” originating out of what he sees as a central difference between sculpture and architecture.
“One of the things that separates those two is a scalar aspect,” he said. “In general, I like to think architecture is a scalar practice.”
“Bivouac for Models” is actually a half-size version of another work that Lott and Para Project are currently building at a separate location in Amenia, N.Y., meaning that it is essentially a model of another work.
Lott said that he intends for the full-size work to be an artist’s archive. The half-size version located at Art Omi will instead contain smaller models of itself.
“In that sense they’re kind of similar — they house objects,” he said.
In addition to installing new architectural works this summer, van den Hout added that Art Omi will welcome new sculptures to the park, as well as an exhibition by Pippa Garner that will be featured in the Newmark gallery, which is located in the park’s visitors center. More architects, artists, musicians, and dancers also continue to arrive as Art Omi holds its annual residencies over the next couple of months.
“One of the things that has been really important to us is to bring in works that are more experimental, and that also allow Art Omi to be a space for architects and artists to try new things,” van den Hout said. “We want to make it a little bit more of a laboratory here.”