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Walter De Maria, Artist on Grand Scale, Dies at 77

For some reason, I didn’t remember that Walter De Maria was part of the NYC underground scene that also evolved into The Velvet Underground…

Walter De Maria's The 2000 Sculpture
Walter De Maria’s The 2000 Sculpture

For some reason, when I saw the above sculpture installation at LACMA, I didn’t remember that Walter De Maria was part of the NYC underground scene that also evolved into The Velvet Underground…

Walter De Maria, a reclusive American sculptor whose multifaceted achievement and sly Dadaist humor helped give rise to earthworks, Conceptual Art and Minimal art, on an often monumental scale, died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 77 and lived in New York.

In a career of more than 50 years Mr. De Maria made drawings of all-but-invisible landscapes, gamelike interactive wood sculptures and a record of himself accompanying the sound of crickets on the drums.

Mr. De Maria himself was a sometime percussionist who played in jazz and rock groups in New York in the 1960s, including one that evolved into Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground. Yet as an artist in later years he avoided the limelight, rarely giving interviews or letting himself be photographed.…

In other works Mr. De Maria favored shiny metals and pristine floor-hugging geometric forms that were often repeated in great numbers. 

From 1953 to 1959 he attended the University of California, Berkeley, studying history and painting, the latter under the painter David Park, who was also a musician and had a jazz group in which Mr. De Maria occasionally performed.

During these years Mr. De Maria was part of San Francisco’s developing avant-garde scene, participating in “Happenings” and theatrical performances and turning increasingly to three-dimensional works. His friends included the composer La Monte Young (later to become another Dia beneficiary) and the dancer Simone Forti, whose task-oriented choreography made him interested in interactive sculpture. Mr. De Maria moved to New York in 1960 and immersed himself in the downtown scene. He participated in Happenings with Robert Whitman (who was then married to Ms. Forti) and briefly ran a gallery on Great Jones Street with him, exhibiting Minimalist sculptures made of wood.

The sculptures were often Dadaist in intent. A piece called “Ball Drop” consisted of a tall columnar structure with a small hole at the top and bottom and a small wood ball. The viewer could drop the ball in the top hole and retrieve it from the bottom.

During this time Mr. De Maria performed with jazz musicians, including the trumpeter Don Cherry, and joined a band called the Primitives. It would evolve into the Velvet Underground.

(click here to continue reading Walter De Maria, Artist on Grand Scale, Dies at 77 – NYTimes.com.)

George Contemplating Walter De Maria's The 2000 Sculpture
George Contemplating Walter De Maria’s The 2000 Sculpture

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