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A Bamboo River Runs Through Storm King
Stephen Talasnik's latest installation melds organic motifs and architectural intricacy at upstate art center
The kidney-shaped sculpture's 3,000 bamboo poles are lashed together with stainless-steel ties and secured with hidden helical screw piles.
Jerry L. Thompson

Storm King Art Center’s 500-acre landscape abounds with bamboo in Stephen Talasnik’s Stream: A Folded Drawing, one of 12 sculptures in 5+5: New Perspectives, a 50th-anniversary exhibition that opened on June 5. Talasnik, a New York–based artist known for his architecturally inspired drawings and sculptures, drew on a number of sources for the site-specific installation, among them the intricacy of basketry construction and the grid-like frames of zeppelins.

Stream’s own infrastructure consists of bamboo poles that intersect with the help of stainless-steel ties. Additional poles jut from the vertices at varying degrees to form the elliptical shape’s exterior wall—15 feet at its highest point—which ascends upon an isolated slope tucked between two oak trees at the foot of Isamu Noguchi’s 1978 granite sculpture Momo Taro.

The intimacy of the site—selected by Talasnik and David Collens, curator and director of Storm King—complements the artist’s aesthetic mission. Talasnik wanted to construct a piece that was monumental yet intimate, purposefully leaving the exterior wall absent or unfinished at certain points, creating a “capacity for the viewer to have a profound influence on finishing it.” He credits Stream’s linearity and transparency for enabling the viewer’s engagement. “If I preserve the line, it preserves a degree of intimacy,” he said during a recent visit to the site. “When the skin goes on, it takes the mystery of the structure away.”

Stream, shown under construction this spring.
Jerry L. Thompson

Stream manages to preserve a certain mystique, however. Steel cables and helical screw piles are hidden underground, leaving visitors to wonder how the structure’s 3,000 bamboo poles are secured. Talasnik collaborated on the design with French architect Mateo Paiva, along with a team of engineers and fabricators. (Talasnik discusses the project and its inspiration in a video here.)

In the coming months, Stream will continue to influence the works that influenced Talasnik while he worked on-site in May. The completed project’s degrees of transparency have created new vantage points for nearby sculptures on Storm King’s Museum Hill. The piece also resonates with the work of Talasnik’s nine colleagues in the exhibition, which includes Storm King veterans such as Andy Goldsworthy and Mark di Suvero, along with newcomers John Bisbee, Maria Elena González, Darrell Petit, and Alyson Shotz.

Katherine Lindstedt