Summer sets the perfect scene for these eight outdoor cultural attractions.As the weather warms up, indoor activities move to the outside. We dine alfresco, sip cocktails on the deck, and enjoy concerts in the park. Why not do the same thing with art? Summer days are perfect for touring sculpture gardens and outdoor painting exhibitions. Bring a picnic lunch and uncork a bottle of wine (when permissible) to enhance the experience. Here’s a roundup of our favorite spots for enjoying culture while getting fresh air.
LISLE, ILLINOIS Steelroots at the Morton Arboretum
The setting at the Chicago-area Morton Arboretum may be filled with trees — various pines that fill the garden’s Conifer Collection, to be specific — but the focus is on the roots for artist Steve Tobin’s Steelroots exhibition. The giant, root-like structures seem to burst forth from the earth. Says Tobin, “The roots evoke communities, families, unseen power, and networks all coming together for a shared purpose. They gather energy and send it upward in support of the ‘tree’ that is not visually apparent.” Visitors are encouraged to get a closer look by walking through and around the sculptures, even touching them. “I’d like people to think about the fact that roots may not often be visually apparent, but that’s where the tree’s strength is,” Tobin says. Twenty-five miles west of Chicago at 4100 Illinois Route 53, mortonarb.org
LOS ANGELES Pershing Square Art Squared Cityscape Gallery
Going into its third season, Pershing Square Art Squared Cityscape Gallery is essentially an outdoor gallery in downtown Los Angeles. This summer’s exhibit focuses primarily on California-based painters, sculptors, and installation artists. Spread over a large space and just a short walk from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Pershing Square Art Squared Cityscape Gallery is a perfect venue for oversize pieces. Emblematic of the work that fits the space, the exhibit will feature six 8x8-foot graphic works. These are digital reproductions of artists’ paintings, laser-printed on vinyl and encased inside openings along one of the gallery’s more conspicuous walls. When the exhibit comes down in October, the vinyl squares, which are specially designed to withstand the elements, will be sold. Art Squared presents a great opportunity for experiencing modern art in an unlikely, outdoor setting. 532 South Olive Street, (213) 847-4970, artsquared.org
Serving as a centerpiece of the Las Vegas Strip and loaded with hotels, restaurants, and gambling options, CityCenter is designed to approximate an upscale, densely populated urban environment. The ultramodern architecture is artful in its own right, and bona fide artworks, purchased from a $40 million budget, accent the sidewalks. Highlights include a 64,000-pound sculpture by Henry Moore; Nancy Rubins’ Big Edge, which is constructed from a pileup of full-size boats and kayaks; and Jenny Holzer’s text-based installation at the valet parking area of the Aria Resort & Casino. Considering all the gambling at hand, her continually changing truisms, such as “Sometimes you have a luxury of time before something bad happens,” take on added resonance. Corner of Harmon Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard, citycenter.com
DALLAS Nasher Sculpture Center
Situated adjacent to the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher has an indoor museum that feels unconfined thanks to its clear roof. Outside, in the garden, large pieces from the Raymond and Patsy Nasher collection are displayed. Jonathan Borofsky’s steel-plated, larger-than-life Hammering Man (which looks pretty much the way it sounds) and Pablo Picasso’s cubist rendering of a woman’s face in stone count among the showstoppers. Other pieces viewable throughout the summer include Rush Hour, George Segal’s cast-iron depiction of grim commuters, and James Turrell’s Tending, (Blue). The piece is designed for people to actually sit inside it and look up at the sky through a square opening in the ceiling. LED lights subtly alter the way the sky looks. It provides a different way to view the ordinary, which after all is one of art’s primary functions. 2001 Flora Street, (214) 242-5100, nashersculpturecenter.org