Donna Dennis: Coney Night Maze

Donna Dennis: Coney Night Maze

Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, SUNY

Donna Dennis, Coney Night Maze, 1997-2009. Mixed media,12.5 x 27 x 19.33 feet. Courtesy of the artist
June 3, 2013
Donna Dennis: Coney Night Maze

June 7–September 15, 2013

Neuberger Museum of Art
735 Anderson Hill Road,
Purchase, NY 10577
Opening: June 7

One of the most popular New York City icons is the Coney Island Cyclone, a 1927 landmark wooden roller coaster, whose jack-knife turns and precipitous drops have thrilled hundreds of thousands of visitors since it opened in 1927. It also is the inspiration for Coney Night Maze, a monumental sculptural installation by artist Donna Dennis that will be presented to the public for the first time at the Neuberger Museum of Art | Purchase College, from June 7 through September 15, 2013. An opening reception will be held Friday evening, June 7, from 6 to 8:30pm.

Thirteen years in the making, Coney Night Maze draws on the labyrinth of fences, gates, and ramps nestled among the I-beams and columns located beneath the actual Cyclone. Rising to a height of twelve feet, the installation includes an ascending rollercoaster-like track which weaves in and out of the darkness, then descends into the distance, skimming the edge of a rock wall that runs the work’s entire 27-foot length. Set in a darkened space and lit by rows of bare bulbs, the hovering Cyclone structure, with its dead ends, locked gates, and abandoned ticket booths, evokes a phantasmal nocturnal composition of compressed architecture in which the sound of a rollercoaster is heard faintly in the distance.

How does one reach the track and its promise of a ride? Says Dennis, “This artwork is experienced from its perimeter. Maze encourages the viewer to encircle the piece. But because there is a deserted, middle-of-the-night quality about it, it’s like going into the realm of the unknown. I’ve created a work that people will want to get into, but they’ll have to use their imaginations to do that.”

In the mid-1970s, Dennis first came to the attention of both critics and the public with her large architecturally inspired installations from her “Subway Stations” and “Tourist Cabins” series. During these years, artists became interested in tackling the psychological dynamics of architectural space and its cultural impact on society through ambitious sculptural installations. Along with sculptures and environmental interventions by such contemporaries as Alice Aycock, Mary Miss, and Siah Armajani, the work of Donna Dennis has brought a distinct, influential voice to this movement that specifically addresses vernacular architecture.

Deconstructing her architectural prototypes in a language that is both evocatively detailed and highly formal, her work is steeped in a well of personal emotion, stopping places or points of passage on a metaphorical journey through life.

Donna Dennis: Coney Night Maze is organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art and curated by Helaine Posner, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, and Avis Larson, Assistant Curator. An illustrated brochure accompanies the exhibition, with an essay by Jan Riley, a curator and writer.

New York History and Artists’ Responses: A Conversation
Thursday, July 11, 7pm
New York City historian Kenneth Jackson introduces the historical context for the structures that have inspired so many artists across New York’s long history, followed by a conversation between Donna Dennis and painter Rackstraw Downes.
Call 914 251 6110 to register.

Tour Coney Island and Visit Sideshows by the Sea
Sunday, August 18, 1–4pm
A walking tour of the Coney Island boardwalk and environs, followed by a visit to the famous Sideshows by the Sea. All ages are welcome.
15 USD per person; provide your own transportation.
Reservations required; call 914 251 6110.

Poetry in the Galleries
Anne Waldman
Thursday, September 12, 7pm
2013 Guggenheim Foundation Poetry Fellowship award winner Anne Waldman will read her work, followed by a conversation with Donna Dennis, a friend and collaborator.

RSVP for Donna Dennis: Coney Night Maze
Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, SUNY
June 3, 2013

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