New York, NY (August 31, 1998) Maya Lin, the internationally acclaimed artist and architect, celebrates her first solo museum exhibition in New York at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery. Opening September 1 and running through October 31, Maya Lin: Topologies documents the dual nature of Lin’s creative expression, exploring the artist’s poetic sensibilities and the architect’s fixation on site.
Lin, who first came to prominence with her competition-winning design for the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial (198182) while still an undergraduate at Yale University, has long been captivated by both landscape and horizon. In Topologies, as in many of her architectural projects, she focuses on our relationship to landscape as perceived through the lens of twentieth-century science, using amazing new perspectives provided by advanced technologies.
The exhibition includes fifteen works in glass, wood, and wax, adapted from com-puter-enhanced imaging and microscopy as well as from aerial views of the earth taken from airplanes and satellites. Also presented are prints, drawings, and models for projects that function independently as art objects. Among the works are Rock Field (1997), an installation of forty-five blown-glass forms that mimics a rocky river bed; Untitled (Topographic Landscape) (1997), a 16-by-18-foot platform made of compressed wood strips that suggests the curvatures of the earth’s topography; Flatlands (1997), a series of monoprints produced by inking broken glass that simulates aerial views of glacial ice; and Avalanche (1998), a site-specific installation of crushed glass.
In his essay for the catalogue, critic Michael Brenson explores Lin’s sensitivity to the landscape, her feeling for gesture, her adherence to the idea of passage and to the notion of horizontality in the light of her cross-cultural heritage: Lin’s parents left China in 1949 and she grew up in Athens, Ohio, where the family settled in 1958, a year before she was born. “Lin’s ease with the past,” he explains, “is very distinct from the struggle between present and past waged by many modernists.” This approach can be seen as quintessentially Asian: the history of Chinese art makes clear that the past was revered, emulated, and acknowledged.
Lin’s emphasis on horizontalitya defining feature of her work from the Vietnam Memorial to her proposal for the headquarters of New York’s Bronx Community Paper Companycan be traced to both American and Asian precedents. American artists, such as Robert Smithson, resisted the Western tendency to verticality in many of his works as did other American “Earth artists.” This preference is also central to Chinese art where the Great Wall functions as a powerful symbol. Similarly, the notion of passage is essential both to postwar American art as well as Chinese painting. Space in Chinese painting, says an scholar Li Zehou, was intended to be at once “viewed,” “traveled through,” “toured” and “lived in.” In short, for Maya Lin, American and Chinese culture coexist to the point where they are inseparable.
“It is particularly appropriate that we present the first solo museum exhibition of Maya Lin’s art works at NYU,” observes Grey Art Gallery director Lynn Gumpert. “The Asian population of New York City has more than doubled between 1980 and 1990, and over 30% of NYU’s first year students are of Asian descent. Lin also designed the offices for NYU’s recently founded Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program and Institute, which is co-organizing a conversation between the artist and Michael Brenson.” “Lin’s interest in landscape and topology stems from a life-long concern for environmental issues which has led her to use recycled and natural materials in both her architecture and her art,” explains Jeff Fleming, Chief Curator of the Southeast Center for Contemporary Art and the curator of Topologies. “Whether in the public domain or in a gallery setting, her works become sites for contemplation and public discourse.” Included in the exhibition are a pastel sketch and a model of The Wave Field (1994), an undulating earthwork on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, that is sculpted from a combination of soil and sand; the crest of the waves is sod. “What I introduce into the land does not try to dominate the existing landscape,” Lin says, ” but instead works with it to produce a new experience.” Her installation at the Grey Art Gallery will feature a study area in the lower gallery, comprised of reading materials and some of Lin’s new furniture designed to commemorate Knoll’s 60th anniversary, including Equator, a maple table with an elliptical cylinder base and a top that is almost imperceptibly convex. Like her monumental public sculptures, her architectural projects, and now her furniture, Maya Lin’s art proposes “new ways to thinking and imagining that resist categories, genres, and borders,” Brenson observes.
Public Programs Exhibition curator Jeff Fleming will give a gallery talk on Wednesday, September 16 at 6 pm at the Grey Art Gallery. A conversation between Maya Lin and Michael Brenson, co-sponsored by the Grey and the Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program and Institute, will take place on Wednesday, September 23, from 7 pm9 pm, in the Tishman Auditorium, at the NYU Law School.
Publication Fully-illustrated catalogue with essays by Michael Brenson, Terri Dowell-Dennis, and Jeff Fleming; softcover, $25.00.
Sponsorship Maya Lin: Topologies was organized by the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina with funding provided by The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc.; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency; Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Inc.; The Winston-Salem Foundation; Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation; and AON Risk Services, Inc. of the Carolinas. The Grey Art Gallery presentation has been made possible by the Abby Weed Grey Trust with special participation by Knoll and Duggal Color Projects, Inc.
The Grey Art Gallery and Study Center, located at 100 Washington Square East, is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays 11 am6 pm and Saturdays 11 am5 pm. The Gallery is open late Wednesday nights, 11 am8 pm.