Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York, considered one of the finest examples of American Gothic Revival architecture, opened its unrestored pool building as exhibition space with a site-specific installation from the artist and curator Jorge Otero-Pailos. Commissioned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Otero-Pailos’ Decisive moment invites visitors to reflect on early 20th century American history and offers a glimpse of the late Golden Age in the Hudson Valley.
Built in 1911 to resemble a Roman bath, the pool building was a cavernous symbol of wealth and luxury that deteriorated for decades after the death of Helen Gould, the daughter of railroad magnate Jay Gould who built Lyndhurst Mansion. Although the building has been structurally stabilized, it has not been fully restored, and Otero-Pailos described the ruins as “a long-term environmental sensor where water has encoded information.” Indeed, water has played several roles in the history of the building, first as an essential element of the swimming pool, and finally as one of the elements that destroyed the roof and the wooden interior.
Otero-Pailos took this layered story as the inspiration for his installation. Decisive moment features monumental latex sheets suspended above the empty swimming pool. Beating lightly as the viewer passes, the latex sheets hang precariously, echoing the seemingly tenuous state of the building. The latex surface appears wet in some lights and bears a cast of the surrounding walls, made by applying and then removing liquid latex, an experimental preservation technique meant to clean dust and debris from historic architecture. Rather than trying to preserve the walls, the hanging latex sheets amplify the dramatic texture of the water-worn surfaces.
Water is also a major feature of the surrounding area. Situated on a hill overlooking the Hudson Valley, Lyndhurst Mansion is part of a legacy of historic homes built in an era when the wealthy valued nature, art and architecture. Tying the installation to the Hudson River and beyond, Otero-Pailos created an audio recording of water bodies from across New York State that can be heard in the building’s echo space.
The artist has also included a nod to the historic traditions of the art of the Hudson River School painters. From a sheet of latex, Otero-Pailos cut five series of openings to pay homage to The Course of Empire (1833-1836) by Thomas Cole, a series of allegorical paintings depicting the stages of the decline of a civilization in nature. savage to the ruins.
• Decisive moment, until September 26 at Lyndhurst Mansion, 635 South Broadway, Tarrytown, New York