Remembering Walter De Maria, The Father of Land Art

In the ’70s, the California-born father of Land Art Walter De Maria invited the world to experience his New York Earth Room, a SoHo loft filled with 22 inches of soil (and perhaps best described in Jerry Saltz’s recent shamanic retelling). In fact, beneath the dark cloud that brought news of De Maria’s passing last Thursday, all of the art world is buzzing with stories of the late artist and recollections of favorite exhibitions—like his mile-wide masterpiece, The Lightning Field, which occupies a desert plateau in New Mexico and taunts the weather with a grid of 400 steel poles; or his current installation at The 55th Venice Biennale, Apollo’s Ecstasy, that scales a floor of “The Encyclopedic Palace” with 20 solid bronze rods. Below, find our favorite press clippings surrounding De Maria who—in his 77th year and after six decades of artmaking—left much to be remembered.

1. LACMA CEO and Director, Michael Govan:

“I think he’s one of the greatest artists of our time … I think there’s a quality to his work that is singular. It was sublime and direct.” Source

2. Venice Biennale Curator Massimiliano Gioni on Apollo’s Ecstasy:

“Walter De Maria celebrates the mute, gelid purity of geometry. Like all works by this legendary artist, this abstract sculpture is the result of complex numerological calculations—a self-contained system in which the endless possibilities of the imagination are reduced to an extreme synthesis.” Source

3. Art Dealer, Larry Gagosian:

“Walter and I worked together for more than twenty-five years. He was an acutely insightful artist whose integrity was unquestionable. His sense of space, and the meticulous yet intuitive way in which he approached art making, were unparalleled. I was proud to exhibit his work, and to count him as a friend.” Source

4. Art Critic, Jerry Saltz, on New York Earth Room:

“I experienced an almost shamanic transport of senses here. The smell of dirt was a magical madeleine that took me back to cutting between bushes and yards while taking shortcuts to school and getting wafts of a negative ozone of dampness and fundament. The sight was full but blank; it was an affirmation of physical abstraction.” Source

5. Art Critic, Christopher Knight, on The 2000 Sculpture:

“Your mind knows what’s up, but your eyes keep shifting your bodily relationship to the sculpture and its ever-changing parts … [A] kind of modern flying carpet in which art, not science, operates at the most profound level of liberation.” Source

Photograph of Apollo’s Ecstasy at the 55th Venice Biennale by Alex John Beck for Artsy.

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