This selection of works by Walter De Maria—drawn primarily from Dia Art Foundation’s collection—presents small-scale objects that were mostly produced between 1961 and 1966. These works introduce viewers to the distinctive forms, techniques, and idiosyncratic imagery developed by the artist in the early years his career, when his practice was evolving in parallel with that of his Minimalist and Fluxus peers. Though intimate in scale, these objects anticipate many of the developments on view in De Maria’s more monumental installations, such as The New York Earth Room, The Lightning Field, and The Vertical Earth Kilometer, all of which were commissioned by Dia in 1977 and celebrate their fortieth anniversary this year.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether you go or not, Walter De Maria: Meaningless Work provides an in-depth analysis of many previously unknown works and correspondence, offering the first major critical account of de Maria’s broader range of interests. As one of the most innovative artists of the last six decades, Walter De Maria challenged art in profound ways. He is known worldwide for his important sculptures such as Lightning Field, but his contributions to the practices of music, drawing, photography, and film have been largely forgotten. In a 1960 score, Walter De Maria called for “meaningless work:” art that does not “accomplish a conventional purpose.” He followed this call with a dizzying period of experimentation. The resulting work reflected shifts in how we understand the sites of art during an era of moon shots and road trips, of wars that moved from jungles into living rooms via electromagnetic waves. It helped us understand ourselves and how race, gender, and sexuality vie for space in the social realm. By bringing to light de Maria’s lesser-known works, this book challenges established histories and methodologies for the art of the 1960s and ’70s, while also exploring de Maria’s own obsessions with art’s uttermost possibilities.