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You are watching: Maya lin groundswell (1993)


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sommos.net: phone call us about Groundswell.

LIN: Groundswell is a piece that I made for the Wexner facility for the Arts. It would be their very first permanent installation, and also Sara Rogers, the curator at the Wexner facility at the time, had contacted me, together she was very aware that the smaller sized studio sculptures. I had actually been concurrently building the Civil legal rights Memorial as I was making Topo and also all this outdoor pieces. I was functioning in my studio. Few of the works were being shown with broken auto glass, lead, beeswax. There to be smaller, personally scaled functions I can physically do myself. The rule was: I had actually to be able to make it. And I think Sara and I disputed the idea of pass something of my studio functions out that doors. And also I was fully interested in doing that, understanding that it was a museum, learning that—unlike a the majority of art in outdoor places where girlfriend really have to nearly gear yourself up for maintenance-free works—a work-related here might be much more delicate. I took one look in ~ the Wexner Center and I knew that. I had actually been because that years wanting to use the damaged glass the end of doors, however inherently it’s quiet glass, and you just can’t touch it. Friend can’t placed it the end there for, just free, for daily walkers-by.

So, when I went to the Wexner Center, ns realized that, as soon as Eisenmann draft the space, he had actually pretty much merged two disparate grids, and spaces were occurring naturally. They were what i would speak to his unplanned spaces, and they were developing in very, very visible locations. In ~ the prior entrance, you looked the end on this graveled rooftop. At the cafe, you looked under on an eight-foot-deep, very odd sort of pit, filling up with gum wrappers. And also there was another one on the upper level where the administration was—highly visible however physically non-accessible, because each of these locations was walled off. It was something the you might look the end on, both native inside and outside the building. And also I knew ideal away that I could use broken glass. However at the exact same time, what i was thinking of law would need dump truck tons of broken automobile glass, which usually I had not really ever before dealt with. I mean, I had actually taken something the was, like—these piece I to be making within were no much longer than the dimension of a table. They to be very, very small. But I knew that I wanted to do this.

The various other thing the was really important come me was that—unlike the intense amount of planning, modeling, preparing the I go into to make some of the large-scale outdoor works—I want to carry to this piece an ext the action of spontaneously make the work-related of art. Which supposed all the I in reality did as drawings and planning was two or three an extremely rough sketches ~ above Xeroxes of the photographs of the currently place. I deliberately wanted to treat the the way I enter my studio, not learning what ns going to do, and also make something. And also inherently, the difference—when an artist literally has actually a blueprint because that an idea and also then lets other people develop it, or even if it is you deserve to actually in ~ a larger scale physically walk out and spontaneously do something—is something ns really wanted to explore in this piece.

So, top top a offered day, forty-three loads of car glass arrived. I had a crew of three people, and we just made this piece. I was terrified because I also realized, “Well, if that an pure disaster, I’m out there in full view.” A studio’s a exorbitant place, because if it no work, nobody can ever hear about it. Right here I was, v school groups coming by, the town hall this, and also I’m the end there not having a clue as to what I can want to do. It took me three or 4 days. And the means in i beg your pardon the glass was lugged in . . . The architect in me kicked in, in ~ some point earlier in the process, and I realized, “This is no various from acquiring roofing gravel approximately the top of a roof.” So, I called up a roofing contractor, and also I said, “Well, I’ve gained these three rooftops the I require re-graveled,” and also they were, like, “No problem.” Then i told them the was broken glass, and they said, “Slightly no problem.” and the exorbitant thing about it is—to acquire all that gravel up, you need a boom crane and also a conical bucket—and we dropped the glass, bucket pack by bucket load.

And ns knew the the item would be about that because, again, these works space also about process. I think ns absolutely coming the end of a ’70s mindset in art, where the procedure of the making of the piece oftentimes deserve to play into the piece. And for this, the is around a conference of East and West. That a play on the Japanese raked gardens the Kyoto, and the Indian burial and effigy mounds of Athens, Ohio. So, it’s a real blend.


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Maya Lin. The tide Field, 1995. Shaped earth; 100 × 100 feet. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.


sommos.net: could you speak a little more about these references?

LIN: The Wexner center is in Columbus, Ohio. It’s forty minutes away from Mound City, i beg your pardon is the biggest grouping of these mounds. So, the a mediate of a aware idea on my part to type of mix East/West culture, yet it’s also about bringing a studio artwork mentality the end of doors. And additionally it’s around process. And also I think Smithson had done a item for Kent State, referred to as Asphalt Pour, in the ’70s. He took a recording truck complete of asphalt and also just dumped the on the side of a hill. And also I think he buried a shed with that (or to be that another artist?). It was just around bringing in—tying in—a spontaneous process into the piece. But for me, it was my very first artwork that ns made that ns was having a problem. Because I knew when I had done the monuments that i was still trying to find something. I really perform feel the memorials space separate— was standing apart. I think monuments, unlike artworks, are a mix of art and architecture. They have a function, however their role is for the most part purely symbolic, so they’re in between. They’re type of the true hybrid between art and also architecture.

I knew, because that me, that ns was struggling in the studio works—and in an earlier piece referred to as Topo—to get ago to the floor in a much more fluid yet intuitive way. And I think, once I had made Groundswell, i realized that, for me, it to be my first artwork, and also I knew that i was very interested in where it was going come go. And also where it went was to The wave Field, i beg your pardon again led me to the entirety Topologies show. So i think, because that me, my sculptures resolve naturally arising phenomena, and they’re embedded and very closely aligned with geology and also landscape and natural planet formations. I think that someone’s work—like Alice Aycock or Scott Burton’s work—dealt with a language the tied it back into architecture.

sommos.net: Why is there such a distinction in her thinking in between art and also architecture?

LIN: I actually I store them separate; that’s simply a an option I made. Ns don’t recognize why i did it. I felt compelled to perform it, basically. I have two sides: creativity and also the architecture. It’s obtained ideas about framing the landscape, being ecologically and also environmentally sensitive—not the a most the artworks aren’t using recycled products and around nature in one more way. But formally, I liked that they’re different, that i don’t want my design looking prefer my sculptures, and also I don’t want the sculptures gift at all architectonic in their form. And that’s simply a choice I made, or a selection that was made. I don’t think I ever before really thought about it. Ns don’t think i woke increase one day and also said, “I’m walk to it is in an artist on some days and also . . .” it was an ext that i couldn’t choose between the two, nor did I choose to mix them. Ns think the taken me a human body of work to see exactly how I am developing.


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Maya Lin. Avalanche, 1997. Tempered glass; 10 × 19 × 21 feet. Installation at the south Eastern center for modern-day Art, Winston-Salem, phibìc Carlina. Picture by Jackson Smith. Courtesy the the Southeastern center for contemporary Art and Gagosian Gallery, new York.


sommos.net: deserve to you speak some more about this?

LIN: Okay. Ns think yes a very easy segue into it, which i think is very, an extremely interesting. I have actually one large concern because I sort of split my time between the artworks and the architecture that—in a way, the procedures of do them room very, really different. And I’ve always been afraid the there’d be a real split, or a schizophrenia that would begin to occur, between my life and my an innovative process as an architect and my life in art.

Concurrent to the Topologies show, I had actually been inquiry by Knoll, a furniture company, to architecture their sixtieth anniversary collection. And from a designer’s suggest of view, indigenous the design/architectural world, the chair is, in a way, the closest come a self-portrait. What execute you look at like, if you were a chair? and also that to be a really tough struggle for me, since I simply was searching and searching because that something. And I started researching the history of the chair. And what I come up through is miscellaneous I finished up titling Stones, and also they are as much around sculpture as they are about design and architecture. And also the type is . . . You can’t fairly tell. That a very simple elliptical stool the you sit on—ever so contempt concave in the center. They’re lightweight concrete. And also they are about that merger, or that dialogue, ns have in between art and design; they’re a hybrid.

And the whole series is referred to as The earth Is (Not Flat); they address the curvature the the Earth. There’s a chaise lounge referred to as Longitude, i m sorry literally is the same catalyst I had to make The wave Field. That a slight undulation in the floor plan. But it additionally is playing off of design, taking Mies valve der Rohe’s classic psychiatrist flat daybed and also literally throw a curve ~ above that, native a design allude of view. I think, for me, the Stones are my favorite, if you have the right to have favorite (it’s constantly terrible to say her favorite).

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But because, in their simplicity, castle both talk to the sculptural world and also the architectural world, and also in that feeling they really talk around who i am and where i’m coming from, they’re really important to me. Therefore that, simultaneously, I could be doing an art show called Topologies and also a commercial heat of furniture licensed has been granted The earth Is (Not Flat), and also yet castle the same voice. For the very first time, and also that to be a pair of years ago, i was type of do to feeling whole. Yet I think it is difficult to separate yourself into two worlds. So, it’s an extremely nice when you recognize that the worlds, though separate, space in pure close dialogue, and that lock in action with one another. And also that’s to be very, really important because that me in my aesthetic, imaginative development.