Agnes Denes to Build ‘Living Pyramid’ at Socrates Sculpture Park

Agnes Denes, rendering of The Living Pyramid (2015).
Agnes Denes, rendering of The Living Pyramid (2015).

Queens’s Socrates Sculpture Park will take Land Art to the next level this spring with a monumental site-specific project by New York–based artist Agnes Denes. In her first major public artwork in the city in over 30 years, Denes will reshape the East River waterfront, creating a 30-foot-tall, 30-foot-wide grassy pyramid from several tons of dirt.

Titled The Living Pyramid, this new addition to the city skyline is just the latest exploration of the geometric form for Denes, for whom the structure has been an integral focus for almost 50 years. The artist sees the pyramid as a vehicle for exploring important social and environmental issues.

“Some pyramids float in apparent weightlessness, while others are made of the weight of conscience. But what they all convey is the human drama, our hopes and dreams against great odds,” said Denes in a statement. “This new work of The Living Pyramid is planted material, with yet a new meaning. Transformed into blossoms, the pyramid renews itself as evolution does to our species.”

The curving pyramid, with its gently arced sides, will mark a triumphant return to public art in New York for the artist, who famously transformed the landfill that is now Battery Park into two acres of farmland in 1982. As unlikely as it may seem, that urban intervention, titled Wheatfield – A Confrontation, yielded more than 1,000 pounds of wheat.

Denes’s presentation at Socrates Sculpture Park coincides with a solo gallery exhibition “In the Realm of the Pyramids: The Visual Philosophy of Agnes Denes,” on view at New York’s Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects through May 9. Despite Denes’s long-running investigation of the pyramid form, this is the first show to focus solely on this aspect of her work.

Installation for The Living Pyramid will begin next month, and volunteers will be invited to help plan grass and wildflowers on the structure during the opening on May 17 (timed of course, for Frieze New York). Over the course of the summer, the tens of thousands of seeds planted will germinate, allowing the piece to grow and evolve. Ongoing programming will allow visitors to engage with the work, reminding park-goers of the responsibility they bear toward the environment, both locally and globally. At summer’s end, the pyramid will be recycled back into the sculpture park grounds.

“Agnes Denes creates timeless yet deeply relevant works that presciently embed themselves in cultural, social, political, and environmental landscapes,” said Elissa Goldstone, the park’s exhibition director. “Throughout her extensive career, Denes has created monuments for the future, and The Living Pyramid is the monument of today and tomorrow.”

Agnes Denes’s The Living Pyramid will be on view at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, May 17–August 30th.


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