Agnes Denes at The Shed: The excuse you needed to visit Hudson Yards

I was in no rush to explore Hudson Yards, despite the exciting extension of a subway line and the High Line’s new spur. But since I am obsessed with Agnes Denes’ wheatfield that once grew in Battery Park City, I finally had an excuse thanks to the new retrospective at The Shed. If you are remotely interested in the origins of this area, or art, or the environment, I suggest you go. (Holland Cotter’s effusive review should seal the deal, especially since he happened to live here when Denes planted her 285 furrows.)

I had seen images of the wheatfield but never had a firm handle on where, why or how: turns out it was a few feet east of where Wagner Park is now. It was political commentary that forced us to question our “misplaced priorities” especially after it was harvested and fed to the hungry. “Wheatfield was a symbol, a universal concept; it represented food, energy, commerce, world trade, and economics. It referred to mismanagement, waste, world hunger and ecological concerns,” Denes wrote in 1982. She brought in fresh dirt to the site (she only had enough money to spread two-inches’ worth across the two acres), planted with the help of volunteers in May and by the August harvest had a combine out there on the site, all in the shadow of the Twin Towers.

You can see more images here; mine are just photos from the Jane Pauley interview and Denes’ own footage. I couldn’t get enough. And the rest of the exhibit (on two floors) shows her truly and literally groundbreaking work, not to mention beautiful. The drawings are as stunning as the earthworks themselves.

To round out your trip: The Vessel by Thomas Heatherwick (who is also doing Hudson River Park’s Pier 55); the glass canopy entrance to the new 7 train stop by Toshiko Mori; the Highline spur — you are already at High Line level from the Vessel plaza — with its monumental sculpture “Brick House” by Simone Leigh, there till September. Mall optional.