the lightning field -- 2/23/18

Today's selection -- from Walter De Maria The Lightning Field. The Lightning Field:

"[2017 marked] the fortieth anniversary of Walter De Maria's The Lightning Field. Dia Art Foundation commissioned and maintains this permanent sculpture made of four hundred stainless steel poles set in the high desert of New Mexico. Dia was established in 1974, just three years prior to The Lightning Field's completion, and this remote work embodies the institution's principles: a new way of presenting art, faith­ful to the artist's vision, outside traditional museum boundaries, and for extended periods of time. Dia sought to enable extraordinary artistic projects that could not otherwise be possible. Certainly, no cultural organization of the time was equipped to realize an undertaking of this scale, nor, perhaps more critically, to place such trust in the artist. ...

"Undoubtedly, one of the single most remarkable qualities of the conceptualization of The Lightning Field is the prescribed, durational aspect of its encounter. The cause of both critical celebration and frus­tration, the artist's insistence on a prolonged visit of almost twenty-four hours is consistent with Walter De Maria's perspicacity in understand­ing the significance of the contextual and situational encounter of an artwork. In 1977, when The Lightning Field was completed, no other cultural experience outside of the performing arts and film called on the viewer to devote time in such a way to one work. Although the journey to view land art situated in a remote landscape had become a fairly well-established phenomenon, and De Maria himself had already explored a number of works in the Western desert that called for such a trek -- including Mile Long Drawing (1968) and Las Vegas Piece (1969) -- the idea of the prolonged visit, one in this case accompa­nied by an overnight stay in accommodation specifically designated for the experience of seeing the work, was (and still is) an altogether singular level of orchestration.

"The length of the visit is far from arbitrary. It ensures the ability to see The Lightning Field at different times of the day and, in particular, to witness the effect at sunset and dawn, when the light on the poles is most dramatic. It allows time to walk the one-mile-by-one-kilometer perimeter of the poles, traverse the interior, experience the different alignments created through the viewer's movement, and observe the relationship between The Lightning Field and the landscape, which De Maria insists is integral: 'The land is not the setting for the work but a part of the work.' "



Jessica Morgan, John Cliett, Robert Fosdick, Walter De Maria


Walter De Maria: The Lightning Field


Sackler Institute at Dia Art Foundation


Copyright 2017 Dia Art Foundation


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