I am often asked where I find inspiration for the countless products we design at Waterworks. My first answer is always museums, although travels, architecture, books, magazines and fashion are in close pursuit. I was very excited to visit the newly renovated Yale Art Gallery where the changed and expanded spaces were inspirational and the art and decorative arts look remarkable in their new homes. And, last weekend we decided to go Dia: Beacon, Riggio Galleries in Beacon, New York, a short distance from where we live, to see some eye popping contemporary art.

The Dia art foundation is a non profit institution founded in 1974 by Heiner Frederich and Phillipa deMenil along with historian Helen Winkler. The concept for the collection was very clear; the founders wanted  to expand the definition of traditional collections, museums and galleries. Their mission has been to advance the experience and appreciation of art through long-term, single artist exhibitions as well as provide scholarly publications and public performances.

The museum opened in 2003 in what appears to be a nondescript factory.  In fact, it was the Nabisco box printing factory built in 1929 with a view of the Hudson River from many of its enormous windows. The 240,000 square feet of exhibition space is filled with natural light and even the surrounding landscape is a rigorous art form.  Much of the original structure is visible from the ribs in the ceiling to the narrow heart pine floors. These floors give the Dan Flavin space a glow while other areas have cement floors. They are perfect for the  approximately 20 identical Donald Judd wall boxes created with stainless steel and a deep blue plexiglass back.

However, my two favorite artists represented are Agnes Martin (a series of paintings done in the 1980’s) and Sol Lewit. I always find inspiration in the rational grids system that defines Martin’s art and the way in which she super imposes a network of pencil lines and colored bands on the canvas.  Her palette is a gentle one, restful, quiet and is said to make the colors “float off the canvas”. Agnes Martin’s work was influential in the development of minimalism in the US, yet she called herself an abstract expressionist. Sol Lewit’s presence at Dia is expansive. In the brochure describing his work he is quoted as saying, “in conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work”. In the monumental wall paintings all decisions are made before the lines are drawn and the actual work is perfunctory. I personally find it interesting to try and figure out the mathematical equations and sequences that appear on the flat wall surfaces.

There are countless sources of inspiration at Dia:Beacon from color and texture, scale and proportion, material management and abstract thinking. Even if you do not know alot about contemporary art there are visual highlights everywhere.  And, don’t miss spending some time walking around the Richard Serra sculptures. Color, texture, shape, proportion, materials, scale, composition, and imagination. All great influences from a single afternoon.

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