Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes (Corcoran in Washington, DC)

[Editor's note: If you travel to DC this summer, check out this installation from renowned contemporary artist and architect Maya Lin of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial fame. There is a fee to enter the private museum.]

Republished from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Run dates: March 14, 2009 — July 12, 2009

This spring, the Corcoran Gallery of Art will present Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes—a dramatic installation of major new works by this renowned contemporary artist and architect.   On view from March 14 through July 12, the exhibition addresses contemporary ideas about landscape and geologic phenomena.  Lin’s second nationally-traveling exhibition in 10 years, Systematic Landscapes explores how people perceive and experience the landscape in a time of heightened technological influence and environmental awareness.

Lin (b. 1959) came to prominence in 1981 with her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. and has since achieved a high degree of recognition for a body of work that includes monuments, buildings, earthworks, sculpture and installations.  Traversing Lin’s constructed landscapes in this exhibition—moving around, under, and through them—we encounter a world that has been mapped, digitized, analyzed, and then reintroduced by Lin as actual, physical structures.  Her work blends a typology of natural forms, from rivers to mountains to seas, with a visual language of scientific analysis represented by grids, models, and maps.  In doing so, Lin merges an understanding of the ideal and the real, encouraging an encounter with conceptual, sculptural and architectural modeling.

Systematic Landscapes is centered on a trio of large-scale sculptural installations: 2×4 Landscape (2006), Water Line (2006) and Blue Lake Pass (2006).  Each sculpture offers a different means for viewers to engage with and comprehend a schematic representation of landscape forms.  In these projects, Lin examines how people’s modern relationships to the land are extended, condensed, distorted and interpreted through new computer technologies.  She translates a series of dramatic landscape environments selected for their inspiring beauty and connection to life-supporting habitats into spatial environments where viewers can engage with them in an art gallery setting.

The first and largest of these installations, 2×4 Landscape (2006), is a vast hill or wave built of more than 50,000 fir and hemlock boards, cut at various lengths and set on end.  Conjuring images of an earthen mound or an ocean swell, this work presents a model landscape on a grand scale.  Shifting between hill and wave, the installation was partly inspired by the Palouse hills of Eastern Washington, an undulating landscape formed by volcanic lava flows.  It measures approximately 60 by 20 by 10 feet and suggests a pixelated, digital rendering of an actual form.

Water Line (2006) maps an underwater landmass located in the South Atlantic Ocean, a volcanic island near Antarctica.  Conceived as a large-scale “line drawing” in space, it can be walked around and viewed from different angles.  To construct this skeletal, topographical model, Lin collaborated with scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to fabricate a computer rendering of this largely invisible landscape, which Lin then reconfigured into its physical contoured form using wire.  Suspended from above, Water Line provides an unexpected view of the natural world.

Blue Lake Pass (2006) models an actual mountain range near the artist’s Colorado home that she has sliced into a grid.  The gaps created by this series of nine cubic-foot particle-board sections of recreated terrain provide new passageways through which the visitor can pass.
Other series represented in the exhibition: Bodies of Water Series (Caspian Sea, Red Sea, and Black Sea), 2006; Atlas Landscapes (Rand McNally New International Atlas, Rand McNally Cosmopolitan World Atlas, and The University Atlas), published 1981–1987, altered 2006; Sketch Tablets (Wanås, Kentucky, and Colorado), 2004–2005; Wire Landscape, 2006, and Plaster Relief Landscapes, 2005.

In addition to these installations, Lin has created a new piece specifically for the Corcoran, entitled Pin River–Potomac (2009).  Made entirely of straight pins, this topographic representation is based on the Potomac River.   Pin River-Potomac links Systematic Landscapes to the mid-Atlantic landscape in a unique way that enhances the viewing experience and resonates with regional visitors.   This piece will be installed by students at the Corcoran College of Art + Design.

Continue reading at the Corcoran . . .

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2 Responses to “Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes (Corcoran in Washington, DC)”

  1. [...] the artwork and critical essays by Gayle Clemans on the flight back to DC. Features pieces by Maya Lin and Paula Scher previously mentioned here. Thanks [...]

  2. [...] note: Also check out the work by Shannon Rankin who takes maps and re-creates them into landscapes. Maya Lin has similar interests. Thanks @amproehl, @vicchi, and [...]