Agnes Denes (b. 1931 in Budapest, based in New York) is a leading figure in American conceptual art who rose to international attention in the Sixties and Seventies. Over the course of a pioneering, far-ranging career, she has employed a broad spectrum of languages and media to explore science, philosophy, linguistics, psychology, poetry, history, and music, in an artistic practice that weds aesthetics to social engagement. Her works, which are often on a monumental scale, bring together ecological, cultural and social concerns, forging an incredibly powerful dialogue between art, nature, and science. Denes has had over 500 exhibitions in galleries and museums around the world; she is also the author of numerous publications and the recipient of prestigious awards such as four National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, among others. She is a Fellow at MIT and Carnegie Mellon University and received honorary doctorates from Bucknell University and Ripon College.
This spring a major project by New York City-based artist Agnes Denes will add life to the city’s skyline with a curving pyramid on Socrates Sculpture Park’s East River waterfront in Long Island City, Queens. Titled The Living Pyramid, Denes’s new large-scale, site-specific earthwork will span 30 feet at its four-sided base and ascend 30 feet high, created from several tons of soil and planted grasses.
Commissioned by Socrates Sculpture Park, The Living Pyramid is the artist’s first major public artwork in New York City in three decades since her iconic urban intervention, Wheatfield – A Confrontation in 1982. Very few artists can fulfill the moniker of “visionary” and fewer still can match Agnes Denes in breadth, scope, outrageousness, and perseverance. Her work is the product of a fiercely intellectual and distinctive study of semiotics, epistemology, mathematics, history, and ecology, which are grounded in philosophical inquiry and social observation.
The Living Pyramid at Socrates Sculpture Park will unite Agnes Denes’s powerful environmental interventions with her ongoing exploration and invention of pyramid structures – a form that has been central to the artist’s practice throughout her long and distinguished career. For nearly five decades Denes has used the pyramid both structurally and conceptually to examine environmental priorities and social hierarchies. In the Realm of the Pyramids: The Visual Philosophy of Agnes Denes, the first solo exhibition exclusively devoted to her imaginative investigations of this iconic form, leading to the publication of the The Pyramid Book, is taking place at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects in New York City from March 14 – May 9, 2015.
For the first time this spring, Agnes Denes’s visual pyramid concepts will be manifested as site-specific, participatory public art at Socrates Sculpture Park. The pyramid’s lifecycle will start in April 2015 as installation begins. As the pyramid progresses, the artist and Socrates invite the public to become part of the installation during a participatory volunteer planting on May 17th from 3 – 6PM, coinciding with the park’s spring opening and New York’s Frieze Art Fair. As tens of thousands of seeds sprout into grasses and wildflowers, The Living Pyramid will continue to grow and evolve, with full assembly and completion this June. It will remain on view through August 30th.
The Living Pyramid is made possible through the generous support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Charina Foundation, Mark di Suvero, the Sidney E. Frank Foundation, the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation, Agnes Gund, Lambent Foundation, Ivana Mestrovic, Plant Specialists, Shelley and Donald Rubin, the Thomas W. Smith Foundation, and Robert and Christine Stiller. Additional support provided by the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.