Walter De Maria: Trilogies, the first major museum exhibition in the United States to focus exclusively on De Maria’s work, will consist of an installation of three “trilogies,” the artist’s term for works in three parts. The exhibition features a new work, Bel Air Trilogy, 2011, in which the artist places three minimal sculptures within mid-century American automobiles, an unexpected juxtaposition of classic car culture and austere, geometric forms.
Bel Air Trilogy stands alongside an earlier tripartite sculpture, Circle, Square, Triangle, 1972, and a third trilogy of large monochrome paintings, The Color Men Choose When They Attack the Earth, 1968, in yellow, and two new paintings, one red, and one blue, in which De Maria unites the three primary colors with the three fundamental shapes.
Born in 1935 in Albany, California, Walter De Maria attended the University of California at Berkeley, where he studied history and art, completing a master’s degree in 1959. He moved to New York the following year and has lived and worked there ever since. Although he trained as a painter, De Maria began a broader experimental practice, embracing happenings, musical recordings, and film production while he embarked on sculpture.
For his first three-dimensional works he constructed spare wooden boxes that anticipated Minimalism. And by the late 1960s, De Maria began to conceive of the earth itself as a site for sculpture of immense scale, which could not be contained within a gallery or museum. He is perhaps best known for the earthwork Lightning Field, 1977, a geometrically precise arrangement of 400 steel poles located in a remote desert of New Mexico and maintained by the Dia Art Foundation. His diverse body of work is testament to De Maria’s complex investigation of the unseen. His precise use of mathematic principles does not lead to a vision of rational materialism but to one of enduring mystery.
Curated by the artist and by Menil Director Josef Helfenstein, Walter De Maria: Trilogies is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue documenting the installation and providing a synoptic chronology and bibliography of the artist’s work. The Menil Collection is the exhibition’s only venue.
This exhibition is generously supported by Houston Endowment Inc., The Eleanor and Frank Freed Foundation, Olive McCollum Jenney, David and Anne Kirkland, William F. Stern, Clare Casademont and Michael Metz, the City of Houston, and by proceeds from Men of Menil. Exhibition underwriter United Airlines is the Preferred Airline of the Menil Collection.
Photos: Paul Hester