Walter De Maria, 16-Sided Open Polygon, 1984, solid stainless steel with solid stainless steel ball, 4 × 98 1/2 × 98 1/2 inches (10.2 × 250.2 × 250.2 cm) © 2017 Estate of Walter De Maria. Photo by Robert McKeever.
Walter De Maria’s six-decade career made lasting and profound contributions to contemporary art. A vanguard force within four major twentieth-century art movements—Minimalism, Land art, Conceptualism, and Installation art—De Maria drew upon both mathematical absolutes and elements of the sublime in his large-scale sculptures and installations.
De Maria’s sculptural practice developed in New York during the 1960s. Expanding upon the Minimalist notion of implicating the art space, his work pushed the boundaries of the traditional white cube. “Mile Long Drawing,” (1968) in California’s Mojave Desert, “The New York Earth Room,” (1977, first executed in Munich in 1968), and “The Lightning Field,” (1977) in New Mexico explored the relationship between art and the natural environment. The geometric themes and principles of measuring and numbering which first appeared in his early work came to define De Maria’s sculpture. Over the decades, De Maria created many site-specific installations using repeated geometric shapes in a variety of mediums and sizes. His mathematical and methodical sculpture, simple in form and presentation, fosters a heightened awareness of the surrounding world.
Walter De Maria was born in 1935 in Albany, California, and died in 2013 in Los Angeles, California. He studied at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1953 to 1959, where he received his B.A. in History and his M.A. in Art. De Maria’s work has been shown extensively around the world in numerous solo and group exhibitions. Recent solo shows include “The 2000 Sculpture,” Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland (1992, traveled to Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, in 2000; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California, in 2012); “1999 Milano 2000,” Fondazione Prada, Milan (1999–2000); Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Hamburg (2000, traveled to Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Germany); De Pont Museum, the Netherlands (2005); Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Missouri (2007); Dia Art Foundation, New York (2010); Museum Brandhorst, Munich (2010); “Trilogies,” The Menil Collection, Houston (2011); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California (2012–13); “Counterpoint,” Dallas Museum of Art, Texas (2016); and “Surface Waves,” San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2017).
Permanent, long-term, and commissioned sculpture installations include “The Lightning Field,” New Mexico (1977); “The New York Earth Room,” New York (1977); “The Vertical Earth Kilometer,” Germany (1977); “The Broken Kilometer,” New York (1979); “5 Continent Sculpture,” Germany (1989); “French Bicentennial Sculpture (1789–1989),” Paris (1990); “5–7–9 Series,” Gemäldegalerie Berlin, Germany (1998); “Seen/Unseen, Known/Unknown,” Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum, Japan (2000); “One Sun/34 Moons,” Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Missouri (2002); “Time/Timeless/No Time,” Chichu Art Museum, Japan (2004); and “Large Red Sphere,” Türkentor, Kunstareal Munich, Germany (2010). The sculpture Apollo's Ecstasy (1990) was included in the 55th Biennale di Venezia in 2013.