Artrippers who stopped by Dia’s old Chelsea space for three decades to mellow down and zone out on Minimal masterworks can find much the same feeling along the Hudson at Dia Beacon.
The town of Beacon is still very much a work in progress, as assorted sketchy types were observed hanging out on Main Street at midday midweek, but the museum itself, cattycornered to the railroad station, breathes the slightly rarefied, snobbish Zen air that has always been the Dia trademark. The cafeteria serves an excellent roast beef sandwich. Piped in soundart and bushels of river light immediately put the visitor at ease. You will never find deeper, plusher sofas than the gray chaises in stoner-style galleries devoted to Lawrence Weiner and Andy Warhol’s satisfying "Shadow" series. Lounge in either one for an hour with somebody snuggleworthy and your cares will quickly disappear.
The various art installations are another matter: the wooden floors, long vistas, white walls and relatively low ceilings severely alter the works of art. One searches desperately for a splash of color here, hence the Indian red Blinky Palermos sparkle and the Ryman Room is a washout. Shockingly, an inventory of wooden Donald Judds reeks of Ikea, but Fred Sandback’s string cheese is charming.
Worst are the dull geometric Walter De Maria floor piece that waste acres and make one wish that Dia will go bankrupt and a new board belatedly install batches of figurative art.
The upstairs devoted to Louise Bourgeois is the usual talent-free abortion bound for the dumpster and the atypical unicolor Gerhard Richters are oppressive. Beating everybody over the head with simplicity is not the answer.
The crowd was heavy on art students and Girl Scout troops, the staff hilariously snooty. On the way back, as the cold comes, you can drive to Bear Mountain and watch the eagles nest on Iona Island. Nature both belies and justifies a museum like Dia Beacon. It is worth a visit, if only for that sandwich.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).