Land artist Walter De Maria dies of stroke, aged 77
The “uncompromising” creator of The Lightning Field and The New York Earth Room shied away from the spotlight
By Julia Halperin and Helen Stoilas. Web only
Published online: 26 July 2013
The artist Walter De Maria, best known for his land art work The Lightning Field, 1977, made of 400 steel poles embedded in a grid in the desert of western New Mexico, died of a stroke on Thursday, aged 77.
The minimalist artist worked closely with the Dia Art Foundation, which commissioned and maintains The Lightning Field, along with two pieces in Manhattan, The Broken Kilometer, 1979, and The New York Earth Room, 1977. In a statement, the foundation says De Maria “was an integral part of Dia since the beginning and he truly embodied Dia’s spirit and commitment to creating time and space for art with no compromise.”
De Maria rarely made public appearances or gave interviews, preferring instead to collaborate with institutions behind the scenes on long-term exhibitions and permanent installations. “He never really talked about his art because he didn’t want to impose an interpretation,” says Philippe Vergne, Dia’s director. “He was invested in art at the most uncompromising level, with a rigor that kept him away from much of the noise of the art world right now.” Vergne recalled receiving a phone call from De Maria as soon as he took over Dia in 2008. “He wanted to meet. He took me to a restaurant in Tribeca called Chanterelle—not because the food was marvellous but because the building used to be a Dia building. He wanted me to understand the history of Dia. He told me only after we were done with lunch.”
The Menil Collection in Houston presented De Maria’s first major museum exhibition in the United States, “Walter De Maria: Trilogies”, in 2011. De Maria’s installation Apollo’s Ecstasy, 1990, comprising 20 bronze rods assembled in a line on the ground, is currently on view in the exhibition “The Encyclopaedic Palace” at the 55th Venice Biennale.
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