Tuesday, November 25, 2008

This is too scientific to be art, right?

I’m not sure Maya Lin can decide what she wants to be when she grows up. Maybe a scientist, maybe an architect, or how about an artist. I think the art world has decided she belongs in a museum gallery, no matter what you call her. Her current exhibit at the de Young, Systematic Landscapes is a showstopper. Like SFMOMA, the de Young hints at the artwork hidden in the basement by offering a spectacular work in the main lobby. 2 x 4 Landscape (2006) is just what it claims to be, a landscape-like scene created from 2 x 4s. But that’s part of what makes Lin’s work amazing, simple materials are transformed into astounding vistas. You can watch the installation of this work here.

It’s funny how themes begin to appear as you spend time in museums. Lin’s exhibit was the perfect compliment to Martin Puryear’s show at SFMOMA. Both shows tried to define spaces that are nearly impossible to characterize. They both ask the viewer to consider the idea of self and our relationship to the environment around us—an interesting idea at a time when we seem intent on jeopardizing our world and ourselves.

One of my favorite moments in the show is the maquette for Lin’s work that is now a permanent sculpture at the California Academy of Sciences, just across the street from the de Young. This is a big maquette, nearly filling one end of a large gallery. So you can only imagine the size of the final work. And the accompanying photographs that show how the sculpture was created add to the interest.

Systematic Landscapes
is packed with beauty and emotion. It’s on display through January 19, 2008.

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