Weights and measures

Walter De Maria, The Broken Kilometer, 1979

There was a time when SoHo in New York City was full of artists. Space was cheap and artists like Donald Judd bought whole buildings to live and work in; the area was full of studios and galleries. Gradually both have dispersed. The galleries have moved north to Chelsea and to find artists’ studios in any real density it’s probably necessary to head to Williamsburgh in Brooklyn. If you look closely, there are still traces of the old SoHo among the designer stores, hotels, bars and restaurants though. Judd’s home and studio is still there at 101 Spring Street, now owned by the Judd Foundation, and will be open to the public once the building restoration is complete. Artists Space has moved several times in its forty year history but remains in SoHo, on Greene Street.

Also tucked away in SoHo are two long-term installations made by Walter De Maria in the 1970s, maintained by the Dia Foundation and still housed in their original locations. Both define the spaces they’re housed in, both fit with some of the themes of American sculpture of the late mid-twentieth century such as the use of non-traditional materials and processes and a minimal approach that is rooted in geometries and measurement.

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Watching the sky

Walter De Maria, The Lightning Field, 1977

The list of art works I really want to see is quite a long one, but somewhere towards the top – and part of an as yet imaginary art holiday that includes other pieces of American land art  – is Walter de Maria’s The Lightning Field. In the middle of nowhere, about three hours drive from Albuquerque, The Lightning Field is, um, basically a field. With, if you’re very lucky (and most who visit it won’t be), some lightning.

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