Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dia artist of the day: Walter de Maria


Recently I’ve had the opportunity to visit Dia: Beacon twice in one month. It was a most serene and contemplative experience, a much needed relief from the labyrinth that is the New York art scene, or the chaos that is city life in general. A quaint and delightfully lit space, the museum was refreshingly open and void of clutter, crowd, and conundrum. It contained an assortment of minimal and abstract artists active in the 60’s and 70’s creating a unified stream of objects in varying mediums, giving the overall exhibition a simple, calculated and contained theme that was very much clear and straightforward.
Upon entrance I was greeted by a massive floor installation of Walter de Maria’s geometric sculptures, 2 rows of circles and squares lined parallel to each other in a large space divided by a wall. At first glance I was unmoved and was tempted to roll my eyes, but as with majority of the pieces at dia, they require meditative participation and keen observation. The Equal Area Series are excruciatingly calculated in their size and placement, each pair of circle and square differentiating another by couple inches. I’ve tried to walk along a single thin wooden vertical floor panel to see if the sizes differ from one circle to the next but it was impossible to tell. Perhaps this was that artist’s intention: to have the viewer participate with his/her own exploratory endeavors and expand on the concept of stillness, repetition, and calculation. The beauty of this piece resides in the progression of patterned geometry: circle square, circle square, male, female, yin, yang, positive, negative…all the polarizing forms of nature reincarnated through these clean stainless steel simple structures. Michael Govan states: “Within the powerful sense of dramatic scale and seemingly absolute geometric perfection…there are many dynamic relationships, for example, the play between the universal underlying cosmic continuum of natural abstract mathematics and our arbitrary culturally defined units of measurement”. One question I ask is: What would the triangle signify and why is it not primary enough to be included in this series of equal areas?

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