Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes

The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis is presenting a major exhibition by world-renowned artist Maya Lin. The exhibit will run until December 30, 2007

Systematic Landscapes centers around three large-scale installations, each of which puts the viewer into a distinctive relationship with the scale and shape of the land. Lin’s pieces are massive and invite the visitor literally to become a part of her invented and real landscapes walking under, upon, and through them. 2×4 Landscape is a 10-foot tall wave from one angle and a hill from another. Made of 65,000 boards set on irregular end, it is a familiar fragment of landscape that can be walked around and climbed. Water Line, a floating wire-frame topographic drawing, can either be walked under or viewed from above. The piece appears abstract but is instantly recognizable as a model of the ocean floor the rough roll of bedrock that bears the weight of the sea. Flung into the air and frozen, it’s an emblem of our foreign familiar, the wet floor blackened and dry in the gallery and rising up to haunt us. Blue Lake Pass, a 3D translation of a mountain range, is made of layers of particle board that have been segmented into a grid and then pulled apart. Visitors experience the piece from within as they walk through the landscape strata, much like a river carves its course through the rocks over millions of years.

Lin explains that these pieces are meant to challenge the means by which we perceive landscapes in the 21st century the era of digital photos and satellite maps on the internet. You just want to translate what you see, Lin said. I am no different from a 19th-century landscape artist. She is different, of course, as she admits, since she is not actually looking at the landscape and reproducing what she sees, but using large amounts of scientific data to produce a vision of what she might see. Part of her vision is to see what has changed in our global environment and show it to those viewing her work. We, as a species, never understood how we have changed the environment, Lin said.

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