I think to be a true minimalist you should almost nearly be invisible yourself . . . Expressing yourself in too baroque, romantic a way might be . . . imposing a lot more content on the world than is necessary.
—Walter De Maria
Gagosian is pleased to present drawings and sculptures by the late Walter De Maria. Diverse works from the first four decades of his career, including the never-before-seen Truth / Beauty sculptures (1990–2016), will comprise his first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom. The exhibition has been prepared in collaboration with the Estate of Walter De Maria.
While attending the University of California, Berkeley, between 1953 and 1959, De Maria was inspired by Fluxus, as well as by his longstanding interest in drumming and jazz. As early as 1959, he staged several poetic Happenings in the Bay area with the composer and musician La Monte Young, through which they explored the spatiotemporal confrontation between bodies and objects. In 1960, De Maria moved to New York City and began constructing static sculptures—unpainted, handmade wooden boxes, often with words or instructions written in pencil on their exteriors and accompanied by wooden balls. One Hundred Activities for Rich and Poor (1960–61), an eight-page drawing from the Estate of Walter De Maria, further exemplifies his engagement with nodes of Conceptual art, and his desire to give these abstract ideas aesthetic presence. The hundred-unit list is made up of pictograms, tidbits of advice, questions, and keywords; it is a task-oriented puzzle that relies upon the viewer’s instinct. Drawn in primary-colored inks, crayon, and pencil, this early work exhibited here for the first time is a list devoid of practical functionality yet open to innumerable conceptual possibilities.
The Open Polygon series (1973–74) is represented by four stainless-steel shapes set in a row that progress from a pentagon to an octagon. Each shape is defined by a recessed track containing a steel ball. The series was one of De Maria’s earliest employments of the polygonal steel form, which he would variously incorporate into both horizontal and vertical sculptures. The Pure Polygon series (1975–76), consisting of seven pencil drawings that begin with a triangle and follow with the next six shapes in succession, shows two-dimensional geometric forms on the threshold of visibility. Faintly traced lines on 36-inch-square etching paper enforce an intimate experience with the viewer.
Truth / Beauty, a series of fourteen sculptures in seven pairs, was conceived and partly constructed in the early 1990s, with the bases and assembly completed posthumously by the Estate according to De Maria’s wishes. The series expands on his persistent attention to permutations of rods, polygons, and numbers. Each pair consists of two arrangements of four rods upon granite bases: one composition is in a chevron pattern and the other resembles an “X.” Each base has “TRUTH” and “BEAUTY” engraved on opposite sides. The first pair comprises five-sided rods, and the rods increase by two sides with each successive couple, culminating in seventeen-sided rods. These fourteen sculptures are staged against a solid blue wall, the same color used in The Statement Series paintings (1968/2011).
Light and Lightning: Wonder-Reactions at Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field
In this second installment of a two-part essay, John Elderfield resumes his investigation of Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977), focusing this time on how the hope to see lightning there has led to the work’s association with the Romantic conception of the sublime.
A Day in the Life of The Lightning Field
In the first of a two-part feature, John Elderfield recounts his experiences at The Lightning Field (1977), Walter De Maria’s legendary installation in New Mexico. Elderfield considers how this work requires our constantly finding and losing a sense of symmetry and order in shifting perceptions of space, scale, and distance, as the light changes throughout the day.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2021
The Spring 2021 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Gerhard Richter’s Helen (1963) on its cover.
Frieze Sculpture New York: An Interview with Brett Littman
The inaugural presentation of Frieze Sculpture New York at Rockefeller Center opened on April 25, 2019. Before the opening, Brett Littman, the director of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum and the curator of this exhibition, told Wyatt Allgeier about his vision for the project and detailed the artworks included.
Walter De Maria: Truck Trilogy
Lars Nittve investigates Truck Trilogy, Walter De Maria’s last work, conceived in 2011 and premiered at Dia:Beacon in 2017.
Walter De Maria: Meaningful Work
Artist Terry Winters, longtime friend of De Maria and member of the installation crew for The Lightning Field, recounts a trip to New Mexico and the surrounding area and attests to the power—the “rhythm and pulse of ancient mystery”—that continues to imbue De Maria’s artworks into the present day.
Extended through March 23, 2019
Walter De Maria
Idea to Action to Object
January 24–March 23, 2019
Grosvenor Hill, London