Friday, February 12, 2010

Bon Dia

by Drew Martin

Last year, mid-May, I went to visit my aunt and uncle in the mountains of Santa Barbara shortly after the Jesusita fire torched over 8,700 acres and blazed through their neighborhood. Thanks to their pool, which the fire department used, their house was not consumed but the smoke damage was unavoidable. EVERYTHING had to be cleaned.

I was in their house the day the window cleaners came and was deeply touched by something so mundane. The cleaners were a young couple. The husband cleaned from the outside and the wife cleaned from the inside. They cleaned the same area at the same time, removing the filmy layer until they could see each other, crisply. They smiled at each other as they worked. It was such a beautiful and poetic act.

Similarly, there have been many couples in the art world who inspire each other and collaborate. Christo and the late Jeanne-Claude were a pair that shared a life, dreams and work. For Valentine's Day I want to highlight another couple in the art world who have a beautiful life together.

The New York Earth Room (created in 1977) at 141 Wooster Street and The Broken Kilometer (1979) at 393 West Broadway are only a couple blocks apart in SoHo and are two of the most interesting art spaces in New York City. They are both long term installations created by Walter De Maria and were commissioned and are maintained by the Dia Art Foundation.

The New York Earth Room is an interior earth sculpture. 250 cubic yards/280,000 pounds of earth over 3,600 square feet of floor space on the second floor of its SoHo building.

The Broken Kilometer is composed of 500 highly polished, round, solid brass rods, each measuring two meters in length and two inches in diameter. The rods are placed in five parallel rows of 100 rods each. The sculpture weighs 18 3/4 tons and takes up almost 6,000 square feet of its ground floor gallery space.

Just as interesting as the work are the sitters. One lady has been sitting in the The Broken Kilometer space for over 17 years and one man has been tending the earth of The New York Earth Room, which requires watering and raking, for two decades. Both sitters are probably somewhere in their 50's but each of them has teenage personalities and expressions.

Maybe their youthfulness is just a sign that they are in love; with each other. They are happily married, meet each other for lunch everyday and walk home together. They've had a life, which included raising children, all in the context of the lingering beauty of De Maria's art work.