Earth Room by Walter DeMaria
Welcome back Earth Room! After a steamy summer, the DIA site has opened again for the season. There are a few things I am slightly obsessed with. At least to the point that I force friends to at least attempt mutual appreciation- Edward James. Niagara Falls (especially the Maid of the Mist boat ride). Horseradish Vodka. And Earth Room.
Earth Room is a room full of dirt on the second floor of a loft on Wooster Street in Soho. 250 cubic yards of earth to be exact. That is pretty much it. Its quiet and calming. It doesn’t do anything. You can’t walk into it, it is just for viewing from one vantage point. The person who works at the desk is probably extremely bored. It is considered an “interior earth sculpture” by Walter De Maria. The dirt in the sculpture is the same dirt from its conception in 1977. It is closed during summers for cleaning. (can you imagine the bio-graffiti you could do with just a handful of seeds?)
I’m not obsessed with is because it is so profound, I think I’m obsessed by the idea that is exists. Occupying heavily sought after Soho loft space, the long term exhibition has been supported at this location by the Dia Art Foundation since 1980. Dia also supports another De Maria piece on West Broadway, Broken Kilometer.
Side note-De Maria’s more impressive permanent piece lies in western New Mexico, where the land isn’t exactly as sought after per square foot. Called “Lightning Field,” it is made up of 400 polished stainless steel poles installed in a grid array measuring one mile by one kilometer. The rods attract lightning in impending storms, forming a “lightning sculpture”, an interaction between nature and art. I haven’t visited yet, I hope to- but I find Earth Room and The Broken Kilometer to be more impressive in context with their surroundings.
Back to New York. Although I do enjoy both pieces visually, as well as the serenity one feels when standing in the expanse before them, my real affinity is what they stand for. To me, the existence of both of these sites is a silent victory over “the man”, or capitalism, or what Soho has become, or whatever you want to call it. These pieces of art have been in the same space, like mini-museums, for thirty years! You know that Pottery Barn or Abercrombie and Fitch have been stalking the area, vying for a glitch in Dia’s lease or something. But no sir, this is a space for art, and will remain so. Whether you personally like De Maria’s pieces or not, it is a victory for art that you should share in.
What: Earth Room
Who: By Walter De Maria
Where: 141 Wooster Street, 10012
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