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Queens Chronicle

Turning a walk in the park into a work of art

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Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013 10:30 am

Walking is a part of life for many of us. It is not unusual, unexpected or — for most people — difficult. As normal as this act is, a new wave of artists has taken walking and turned it into an art form.

Independent curator Earl Miller will be bringing walking art to the Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs in an exhibition entitled “Artists’ Walks: The Persistence of Peripateticism” through Nov. 17.

“The proposal we received from Earl Miller hit on a number of our targets,” Noah Dorsky, the co-founder of the gallery, said. “It was an interesting idea because there was an important art movement of these artists’ walks that began in the ’60s and ’70s and now we have new artists who are following in that tradition.”

Artists’ walks can be traced back to 1960 when Stanley Brouwn, a Dutch artist, stood on the street and asked strangers to sketch directions from one given point to another.

“Indeed, a half-century later, artists’ walks have become a paradigm,” Miller writes in the exhibit brochure. “They have ridden on the high tide of social practice art from the 1990s onward that encouraged art production and sometimes presentation outside studios and galleries.”

The trend took off and scores of artists around the world began creating strolling art.

But while Brouwn and artists like him had limitations, technology, including the GPS, has created a new realm in which artists’ walks can thrive.

“They have gained a wider audience because of their hybridization with other genres and fields, notably performance art, video art and urban geography,” Miller writes. “They have been granted increased potential for experimentation by GPS and Google map technologies’ provision of new documentary possibilities.”

Featured artists use different media to connect viewers to walking. In Samuel Rowlett’s “Landscape Painting in the Expanded Field,” the artist takes a blank, primed canvas, straps it to his back and wanders through fields, forests and rivers.

The video and photo documentation of this performance piece “highlights the contrast between real landscape and the absent painted one.”

Then there are artists like Jessica Thompson, whose piece “Swinging Suitcase” requires audience participation

The piece involves a mobile audio device in a suitcase that plays short recordings of sparrow songs to merge nature with the urban landscape. As a person’s gestures change and the distance walked increases, the sounds accelerate and multiply, using 60 source clips of house sparrows.

Two of the pieces that require audience participation will make appearances at Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria and The Noguchi Museum where visitors can partake of the works before they make their grand appearance at Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs.

“This type of art eliminates the barrier between a viewer and a participant,” Dorsky said. “There are trends in contemporary art that are not made by the hand of the artists. For example, wall drawings, which are a set of instructions for other artists to complete. This makes the piece not just an intellectual instruction but also creates something people can view and participate in.”

Miller was not available to speak on his new exhibit as he is based in Toronto but Dorsky spoke highly of the independent curator’s idea.

“This is a contemporary take on a particular art movement that has some traction,” Dorsky said.

An opening reception for the exhibit will be held on Sept. 8 from 2 to 5 p.m.

‘Artists’ Walks’

When: Sept. 8 to Nov. 17, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Dorsky Gallery, 11-03 45 Ave., LIC

Tickets: Free, dorsky.org

(718) 937-6317

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