Now that the hot air balloon rides, scavenger hunts, teas and cash bars have exited the opening weekend of the Henry Moore sculpture show at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, it’s a perfect time to go. You just don’t need “Moore” to do than view.
What more visual stimulation or extra-curricular entertainment could possibly enhance the elegance, enormity and sheer simplicity of the 20 pieces in “Moore in America” – a show that has debuted at the New York Botanical Garden last year and will be in our Midtown garden through Oct. 31. Don’t miss it.
Part of the opening weekend hoopla was to introduce metro Atlanta residents to the new once-controversial parking garage. Are we over that yet? The parking garage is truly nestled into a hillside – well, as much as possible – and has been designed and landscaped all over to make it not only palatable but downright attractive.
Whether you are approaching the garden on foot from Piedmont Road or motoring in from Monroe Drive, it’s a whole new experience and a new route. As one friend said, “You no longer feel like a school kid being dropped off at the circular entrance. This is much more sophisticated.”
However you get there, you’ll be dazzled by one of the best views of the Midtown and Downtown skylines; it might be enough to offset your grumpiness about having to pay for parking now. You’ll also appreciate the greatly expanded offerings of the glittering new gift shop on the lower level of the Hardin Visitor Center (designed by Jova Busby Daniels).
But we digress. This is about the splendor of English sculptor Henry Moore’s works, best seen as he intended them: outdoors. “Sculpture is an art of the open air,” he once said, and his monumental pieces are that and more – of the lush spring growth of the garden, of the hills where they nest, of the water they seem to hover over.
The pieces in this show, abstract and mostly bronze, are representative of the free forms, female figures and nurturing themes Moore employed most. With names like, “Draped Reclining Mother and Baby” and “Seated Woman” one gets a good sense of his devotion to what pleased him most. While they are huge in size, his use of grace and space keeps them from becoming clunky or awkward. Several of them feature openings and “laps” that look perfect for a photo op – if no one is looking.
Moore (1898¬-1986) grew up one of eight children in Castleford the son of an Irish mining engineer, but through an innate and nurtured appreciation for the arts and formal education (including a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London), he experimented and taught his way to prominence, gaining large commissions for public art all over the world.
He first visited the United States in 1946 for a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art and with his increasing fame came great wealth. He eventually established the Henry Moore Foundation – which includes his final home Hoglands as a museum and gallery – to promote the public appreciation of art and to preserve his sculptures.
The pieces at the Botanical Garden are carefully placed and lovingly lit which you will especially appreciate if you go at night. An extra draw for night time viewing: Moore & Martinis (cleverly dubbed “social irrigation”) on Thursday nights through September (6 to 10 p.m.) when signature cocktails will be served along with “tastings” from a local restaurant (free for members; $15 for non members).
But, honestly, the sculptures should be seen in broad daylight, too. The play of the sun and shadows and the variety of settings – from the Conservation Bog Garden to the Rose Garden and Alston Overlook – are constantly changing, as fluid as the sculptures in their reclining-but-not-static poses.
To be sure, there are programs for kids throughout the exhibit and educational lectures for adults (visit www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org), but the wonder and wow of these pieces are, to this eye, best appreciated without the same disproportionate focus on “entertainment” that has likewise rendered baseball a mere sideshow to the games, food, contests, cameras and other nonsense at The Ted.
The art here is “Moore” than enough.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday; closed Monday.