Walter De Maria

WALTER DE MARIA, 5-7-9 Series, 1992/1996, stainless steel on granite, 27 parts each: 21 5/8 x 12 x 26 3/4 inches (55 x 30.5 x 68 cm) © Walter De Maria. Photo by Matteo Piazza

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Walter De Maria’s six-decade career made a lasting and profound contribution to contemporary art. A vanguard force within four major art historical movements during the twentieth century—Minimalism, conceptual art, land art, and installation art—De Maria mined both mathematical absolutes and elements of the sublime in his large-scale sculptures and installations.

De Maria’s sculpture developed in New York in the 1960s and, expanding upon the Minimalist notion of implicating the art space, his artwork 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, 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 (b. 1935 Albany, CA, d. 2013 Los Angeles) lived and worked in New York. De Maria’s Apollo's Ecstasy (1990) is on view at the Arsenale as part of the 55th annual Venice Biennale, Italy (through November 24, 2013). His numerous solo museum exhibitions include those at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2012–13); the Menil Museum, Houston (2011–12); Chichu Art Museum, Naoshima, Japan (2000, 2004); Fondazione Prada, Milan (1999); and the Kunsthaus Zürich (1992, 1999). Among eleven permanent, commissioned sculptures by the artist are The New York Earth Room (1977), New York; The Broken Kilometer (1979), New York; The Lightning Field (1977), New Mexico; The Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977), Kassel, Germany; Monument to the Bicentennial of the French Revolution 1789–1989 (1989–90), Assemblée Nationale, Paris; and the Large Red Sphere (2010), in the Türkentor building, Munich. Gagosian Gallery first exhibited Walter De Maria’s work in 1989.