May 21, 2009

Passageways



The latest works by renowned contemporary artist and architect Maya Lin are now showing at Washington’s Corcoran Gallery of Art. Lin came to prominence in 1981 with her winning design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and has since achieved international acclaim for her site specific art and architecture projects. Her body of work, which includes monuments, buildings, earthworks, sculpture, and installations, addresses notions of landscape and geological phenomena. In recent years, Lin has focused on reinterpretations of landscapes, analyzing the natural world using modern technology including satellite images, digital mapping, and topography, and presenting that data in exquisite three-dimensional forms. Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes is an exhibition of major new work centered on a trio of large-scale sculptural installations that present different ways to encounter and comprehend the landscape in a time of ecological change.

The first major installation, 2x4 Landscape, is built from more than 50,000 fir and hemlock boards, cut at various lengths and set on end to form an imaginary landscape. The work rises to a height of ten feet and fills an entire room in the museum gallery. Resembling an earthen mound or an ominous ocean swell, this work is a model landscape on a grand scale.

The Blue Lake Pass sculptures are modeled on an actual mountain range located near the artist’s home in Southwest Colorado. This installation consists of a series of 20 cubes composed of vertical sheets of particle board that have been carved and stacked allowing visitors to contemplate a landscape from the inside. Of this work, Lin says, “by creating a sculpture that details the topography, applying a three by three foot grid to that terrain, and then pulling the terrain apart so that one can walk through the landscape, I wanted to shift one’s perspective about the land, allowing a viewpoint that is more geologic in character.”

The third major installation, Water Line, is a suspended wire-frame topographic sculpture, which maps an underwater landmass located in the South Atlantic Ocean. The piece appears abstract but is instantly recognizable as a model of the ocean floor. Presented as a floating line drawing that visitors can walk under, around, and view from different angles, Water Line provides an unexpected view of the natural world.

Lin works in other media as well, including using plaster, recycled silver and steel wire to create smaller three-dimensional sculptures which are also represented in the exhibition. Additionally, Lin has created a new work designed specifically for the Corcoran. Pin River-Potomac is an outline of the river made entirely of straight pins and the shadows cast by them. These small-scale interpretations equally inspire and enthrall the observer.

Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes will be on view through July 12.

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