Sunday, 28 July 2013

Walter de Maria, 1935 - 2013

Walter de Maria, Lightning Field, 1977
Walter de Maria died on 25 July 2013.
Lightning Field (1977) is de Maria’s signature work and will be a lasting memorial:  400 stainless steel poles arranged in a 1 mile x 1 kilometre grid in New Mexico; the work is occasionally activated by lightning strikes.
The piece is characteristic of de Maria’s work insofar as it is marked by a concern with mathematical precision and organisation, a minimalist aesthetic, a conceptual edge and a resistance to commodification (the work was commissioned by, and is maintained by, the Dia Art Foundation).  
Other notable works include The New York Earth Room (1977), The Vertical Earth Kilometre (1977), The Broken Kilometre (1979) and The Two Thousand Sculpture (1992).
The New York Earth Room (1977) is what it says - a room containing earth!  197 cubic metres of soil spread to a depth of 22 inches over  335 square metres. (Read Jerry Saltz’ obituary/appreciation of The New York Earth Room.) 
The Vertical Earth Kilometre (1977) comprises a 1 kilometre long brass rod buried in the ground (in the centre of Friedrichsplatz Park in Kassel, its top flush to the surface of the earth and surrounded by a red sandstone slab.
The Broken Kilometre (1979), described as a companion piece to The Vertical Earth Kilometre comprises 500 polished, brass rods, each two metres long, laid out in five parallel rows of 100 rods each. 
The Two Thousand Sculpture (1992) comprises 2,000 white-plaster rods laid out in a herringbone pattern - if laid end-to-end they would stretch for 1 kilometre too.

In the 1960s de Maria was active as a musician. He worked with La Monte Young, composed two musical works (Cricket Music, 1964; Ocean Music, 1968) made a sculpture for John Cage (Cage, 1965) and was drummer in a band called the “Druds”, allegedly featuring vocals by Patty Mucha (Oldenburg) backed by Andy Warhol, with painter Larry Poons on guitar and La Monte Young on saxophone, performing material with lyrics by Jasper Johns!! De Maria also drummed for an short-lived group called “The Primitives” alongside Lou Reed and John Cale – presumably it is de Maria drumming here on this 1964 single “The Ostrich”. Almost a Velvet.
Walter de Maria, The New York Earth Room, 1977
Walter de Maria, The Vertical Earth Kilometre, 1977
Walter de Maria, The Vertical Earth Kilometre, 1977
Walter de Maria, The Vertical Earth Kilometre, 1977
Walter de Maria, The Broken Kilometre, 1979
Walter de Maria, The Two Thousand Sculpture, 1992
Walter de Maria, Cage II, 1965

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