Walter De Maria (1935–2013)

Hardcore (1969)

Any good work of art should have at least ten meanings.
—Walter De Maria

In his sculptures, land works, and installations, Walter De Maria (1935–2013) explored the relationship between the relative and the absolute, using basic geometric components to produce sublime repetitions. By arranging forms according to mathematical sequences, he worked at the intersections of Minimalism, conceptual art, and land art—drawing attention to the limits of gallery spaces, prioritizing bodily awareness, and locating the content of an artwork in the viewer.

In 1960, after completing his masters degree at University of California, Berkeley, De Maria moved to New York and began to show his work at a gallery he cofounded with Robert Whitman on Great Jones Street. Influenced by his peers, including Donald Judd and Fluxus member La Monte Young, he produced serialized and numbered sculptural sets of cast and polished steel.

De Maria’s precise polygonal structures impart a sense of the absolute. 14-Sided Open Polygon (1984), a stainless steel tetradecagon containing a steel ball, is emblematic of this distillation. The Pure Polygon Series (1975–76) is a suite of seven pencil drawings of basic geometric outlines in which a single side is added sequentially to change each shape, beginning with a triangle and ending with a heptagon. In 1977 The Lightning Field was installed in a remote area of the desert in western New Mexico. The work comprises four hundred polished stainless steel poles installed in a grid measuring one mile by one kilometer; the poles, meant to attract lightning, measure over twenty feet tall and have solid pointed tips that define a horizontal plane. The visitor both walks within the grid and views it from afar, observing it over an extended period of time and through space. Other major installations include The Broken Kilometer (1979), five hundred identical brass rods arranged in five rows, which, if placed end to end, would measure one kilometer; The New York Earth Room (1977), a white-walled SoHo loft filled with 280,000 pounds of soil; and The Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977), a one-kilometer-tall brass rod that stretches toward the sky from Friedrichsplatz Park in Kassel, Germany.

Water De Maria in UbuWeb Sound