MAY 4 – NOVEMBER 11, 2013
David Brooks’s A Proverbial Machine in the Garden comprises a 1970s–model Dynahoe tractor, complete with backhoe and front-end loader, that has been buried beneath Storm King’s iconic landscape. Brooks has selected visually arresting areas of the machine—including the excavating and loading buckets, and part of its cab—that are framed out in concrete shaftways left open to the sky, while the remaining body of the tractor is buried beneath the earthen hillside. Visitors are invited to stand on the shaftways’ steel grates and peer down into the exposed compartments of the tractor below the earth.
The notion of a ‘machine in the garden’ is a cultural symbol that underlies the tension between the pastoral ideal and the rapid and sweeping transformations wrought by industrialized technology. Titled after cultural historian Leo Marx’s seminal text, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (1964), Brooks’s work considers this ongoing conflicted relationship between the individual and the built and natural environment. Speaking to Storm King’s past—as an agricultural site—and present—as a cultivated pastoral environment—A Proverbial Machine in the Garden addresses questions of how humans use, consume, and perceive the natural world. Brooks’s artistic practice is inseparable from his deep interest in the cultural issues and practices of environmental preservation. He has spent a great amount of time in both South Florida and the Amazon rainforest—two sites of environmental richness that have become perilously threatened by accelerated human impact. Brooks’s work makes reference to the artists of a generation before him who developed Land Art, using site and land as artistic materials. The buried tractor is symbolic of both farming and land-moving machinery that helped to build Storm King’s "natural" environment, but also might foreshadow an entropic, post-industrial future, in which the machinery that has created our world will lose its purpose, buried in the very soil that it was designed to control and shape.
A Proverbial Machine in the Garden is performative, as well as sculptural. Implicit in the viewing experience of the sculpture is an understanding of the effort expended in its creation. The tractor’s shovel and backhoe are suspended in action, and allude to the land excavation that led to the tractor’s burial. Unlike many of the sculptures at Storm King, which command great views from a distance, Brooks’s piece is subterranean, and invisible from afar. It is designed to be experienced—as a natural landscape or topography would be—by viewers walking across it, taking it in step by step, and understanding its whole through time. It is this interconnectivity between human and landscape that Brooks means to underscore with A Proverbial Machine in the Garden.
A Proverbial Machine in the Garden is organized by Nora Lawrence, Associate Curator, Storm King Art Center.
A Proverbial Machine in the Garden is made possible by generous lead support from The Samuel E. Freeman Charitable Trust. Additional support is provided by Matthew Dipple / American Contemporary and Virginia Dwan. Education-related programming is made possible by the Sidney E. Frank Foundation.
David Brooks, A Proverbial Machine in the Garden, 2013. Dynahoe tractor, concrete, earth, landscaping and steel grates, approximately 66 x 28 x 12’ (20.12 x 8.53 x 3.66 m). Courtesy the artist.
David Brooks has exhibited nationally and internationally at Miami Art Museum; Nouveau Musée National de Monaco; Dallas Contemporary; Bold Tendencies, London; James Cohan Gallery Shanghai; Cass Sculpture Foundation, UK; and, in New York, at SculptureCenter, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, and Marlborough Chelsea. He was featured in the 2010 Greater New York at MoMA PS1 and in the 2012 Changwon Sculpture Biennale in South Korea. In 2011, he showed his critically acclaimed Desert Rooftops in the Last Lot in Times Square, sponsored by Art Production Fund. Forthcoming shows include solo exhibitions at American Contemporary, New York and the Galerie für Landschaftskunst, Hamburg. Brooks received his BFA from the Cooper Union in New York, and his MFA from Columbia University. He lives and works in New York City.