Maya Lin: Three Ways of Looking at the Earth

My intention is not to take you on a tour of the elements, but in the new exhibition of work of Maya Lin we move from the water of previous posts water to earth here.
Banner for Lin on 22nd Street, not far from the gallery
Once again
Lin shows herself to be one of our best sculptors. In Three Ways of Looking at the Earth at Pace Wildenstein's 22nd Street gallery, Lin uses three topographic systems to depict specific environments, producing them in different materials on a scale that allows the viewer to navigate around and through them.

When I was there recently, two pre-teen girls scampered up a 10-foot hill of 2x4s. At first I thought it was a performance, but they were too young and they kept looking back toward Lin. Her children? This kind of joyous freedom seemed so antithetical to the gallery's attitude, but you can see them for yourself. (Normally Pace maintains a rigorous no-photography policy but when the kids started climbing, the cameras came out. )

It's tempting to think of Lin as the anti-Serra, working with the earth, or with the idea of earth, rather than imposing her will on it. But of course that's not true. Lin's work is every bit as assertive and dramatic (and her permanently installed Wave Field at Storm King shows you just how imposing she can be), just in a kinder, gentler way. The installation at Pace is up through October 24.

2x4 Landscape, composed of 50,000 vertical 2x4s, suggests a hill

The press release says the 10-foor-high installation occupies 1900 square feet of floor space. The climbers had someone's approval. Judging by the way Lin was watching them, and the way they surrounded her afterward, I'm guessing they were her kids. Certainly no one else attempted the same climb


Walking the perimeter of the work, I shot it at its far end, taking in a bit of each of the other two works in the space

Blue Lake Pass, 20 units composed of contoured particle board
Let me quote the press release here: "Based on terrain from the Rocky Mountains, Blue Lake Pass explores a specific region of Southwestern Colorado that is personally familiar to Lin, whose family vacations there each summer. Lin imposed a three-by-three-foot grid on the topography, which was then scaled down and sectioned into 20 individual units that form narrow passageways through the mountain pass."

Water Line, aluminum-wire , 19' x 34' 8" x 29' 2"

The contoured grid of this work suggests a mapped section of ocean in the Antarctic. The experience of walking on the ground through an airy grid meant to depict water is viscerally thrilling

The sculptor in conversation while the young climbers scaled the wooden hill just beyond her right shoulder .
Update 10.6.09:


Donna Dodson said...

Thanks for this post, Joanne. I was at the opening reception for the show on Sept 10th and even saw Christo and Jeanne Claude there. I am planning to go to Storm King in a few weeks- can't wait to see more of Maya Lin. One person I talked to in the gallery said there is a form underneath the 2"x4" mountain, and that she uses writing as a tool to develop her ideas. Great work!

Joanne Mattera said...

Thanks for the "inside" scoop, Donna. I wondered if thre was an armature supporting the hill. In a way it feels like cheating, but the weight (and cost, and environmental impact) of all that extra wood would take its toll. Besides, something has to anchor the work so that the whole thing doesn't undulate into a mass of loose blocks.

kim matthews said...

Thank you for your post. Maya Lin is brilliant; hope we get her here in Mpls. one of these days.

Stephanie Clayton said...

I've read that Maya Lin does sometimes allow viewers to physically explore specific works, including climbing or walking on the these installations.
Thanks for sharing this exhibition- a fitting segue from the water-themed posts.

Stephanie Sachs said...

So glad you wrote about this show.
Spent days walking through Chelsea and can barely remember anything other than this. It was like walking into a breath of fresh air.
So serene.

Anonymous said...

One quick note. There is not a form, or any structure, inside the 2x4 landscape. It is constructed entirely of 2x4s on end and fastened together with thousands of bolts.