presents Idea to Action to Object, an exhibition of over forty works on paper and several related sculptures by the late Walter De Maria. The drawings, sourced from the Estate of Walter De Maria, are on view for the first time, revealing various unrealized projects and philosophical explorations, and suggesting a tender humanity behind De Marias geometric precision.
In De Marias wide-ranging oeuvre, objects emerge from a transitional zone between idea and action. Like sounds coming from an instrument, shapes appear, overlap, and repeat in infinite permutationsdrawing attention to the limits of gallery spaces, prioritizing bodily awareness, and examining the relationship between the relative and the absolute.
The title of this exhibition comes from a sketchbook page, Abstract Concept (c. 196061), in which De Maria mapped out a cyclical relationship between a works conception, actualization, and perceived meaninga cycle that he believed to be rooted in the real (as opposed to illusory) world. Themes of causality and performance run throughout the drawings, providing more intimate backstories for his minimalist sculptures and installations. The early editioned sculpture Ball Drop (196164) comprises a tall plywood box with two square holes cut into its face. A wooden sphere sits in a compartment framed by the lower hole. When it was originally shown at the 9 Great Jones Street gallery in 1963, the viewer was invited to take the ball and drop it through the top hole, causing a sharp bang. Here, however, the ball remains static, charged with potential energy, like the solid stainless-steel ball in 14-Sided Open Polygon (1984).
In De Marias later works, it could be argued that the ball is replaced by the viewer, who must consider herself in relation to both abstract ideas and physical space. This is powerfully illustrated in the preparatory drawings for his unrealized Olympic Mountain Project (197071). For the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, De Maria proposed to drill a 400-foot shaft through a mountain of rubble from World War II, covering the top of the hole with a bronze disk. To think about the dark void beneath the metal disk imbues his other disk-shaped sculptures with a sense of precariousness. Standing over The Equal Area Series: Pair Number 24 (1990)steel outlines of a square and a circle occupying the same surface area of the gallery floorthe viewer may imagine falling through the square hole in Ball Drop or through the circular one in the Olympic Mountain Project.
Some drawings attest to De Marias lighthearted, improvisational spirit. In Stand Up Commedian (circa 196163), a bowling pinlike man occupies the center of the page with talks for two hours about cigaretts [sic] and smokes written above his head and diskothek appearing beneath him; and in the Flying Saucer (1974) drawings, loosely rendered ellipses float across the page. This suggests that De Marias geometries are not entirely unfanciful, but rather combine the serialization of Minimalism with the sublime scale of land and sky, and the electrifying tremors of the unknown.
De Marias Truck Trilogy is on view at Dia:Beacon, NY, through summer 2019.