Sunday, November 20, 2011

Earth room

The other day I was telling my Mom about an art installation I had seen in New York. This would have been in the mid-1980s, when fellow U.Conn. students and I would take a $20 bus ride to the city for the day. One of my professors suggested visiting this minimalist piece, so a few of us went to 141 Wooster Street where we were confronted with a roomful of earth. Not a weed in sight, just rich black earth in contrast to the pristine white walls in a 2nd story loft in SoHo. You smelled it (250 cubic yds), you saw it (3,600 sq ft), you wondered about it (22" deep), and you marveled at it (280,000 lbs). "The Earth Room" was created by American artist Walter de Maria the same year - 1977 - that he installed "The Lightning Field" in Quemado, New Mexico. The conceptual artist never talks about his work, saying only that it's to be experienced directly or not at all (hence the photos are a bit subversive). "I think it's great that he never made a statement. So you just stand there and look and nobody tells you what to think....A lot of people have preconceptions of what art is. They walk up here and all of those preconceptions are blown away. They're released. And laughter is often the result," quoted the New York Times. A reporter from the Washington Post described, "Stunned, for several minutes I could do little but stare. Light poured in through several windows, glistening on the textured soil. I vaguely registered the muted sound of a cab passing outside. Only a knee-high sheet of Plexiglas separated me from the dirt. There were no other visitors, but that was not particularly surprising. The art installation is way too avant-garde to advertise, or even put up a sign out front; you have to hear about it from someone in the know." I had, and reading about "The Earth Room" brought up pleasant memories about studying art with the world stretched out before me. Imagine my surprise to learn that the roomful of earth is still there.

1 comment:

  1. I find it hilarious that New Yorkers want to look at a room full of dirt. Or that an artist thinks a room full of dirt is interesting. Not because I miss the significance of dirt or that I miss the significance of this as an artistic endeavor in New York, but because where I live, Dirt is so common. I live amongst farms. I can see dirt everywhere. It's not something to be revered as an art installation. Jees.


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