BEDFORD, N.Y. – The exterior of the Katonah Museum of Art unveiled its latest outdoor exhibition on Sunday. “Six Ladders,” by artist Andrea Lilienthal, is now open to the public. The ladders, however, are only for viewers imaginations and eyes to climb.
The exhibit is a series of giant bamboo ladders for the museum’s stately sculpture garden that are hard to miss, with their bright colors doing every but blend in with the statures they lean against.
Five of the colorful ladders lean against the museum’s enormous spruce trees in various positions and at different angles. On the building’s façade, a sixth ladder of 30 feet extends just short of the roofline - its form and ribbons of color energizing the wall and lending sculptural dimension to the flat expanse.
Each of the ladders are hand-constructed from sturdy commercial bamboo harvested in China and painted with high-gloss outdoor enamel paint from Holland. Their surfaces are smooth and reflective in contrast to the course-textured tree bark.
Lilienthal explained the placement of the latters was not random.
“These magnificent and mysterious trees [at the Katonah Museum of Art], whose tops are not even visible, dwarf the people and furniture below,” she said. “In response to their super scale, I chose the ladder, a form with human scale and multiple readings: utilitarian ancient, mythic, and universal.”
However, just so her art isn’t misconstrued, Katonah Museum of Art Curator Ellen Keiter said bamboo is a hollow-stemmed, woody plant that “bows, sways, and splits, so slight imperfections, even substantial cracks, add distinctive character to each ladder. No two ladders are painted the same, yet their similarly saturated hues coalesce into a lively visual harmony.”
Lilienthal has used bamboo in her artistic practice for several years. In earlier installations, she aligned multiple painted, wrapped, or taped bamboo poles along a wall — works awash in color but still relatable in size.
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