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Carnegie Museum of Art presents Maya Lin exhibition

Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center presents an exhibition of work by Maya Lin, open May 13, 2012, including a new piece, to be created for the exhibition, commemorating Pittsburgh’s rivers.

Maya Lin, Blue Lake Pass (detail), 2006, Duraflake particleboard; © Maya Lin Studio, Inc., courtesy The Pace Gallery; Photo by: G. R. Christmas / Courtesy The Pace Gallery

The Heinz Architectural Center invites consideration of the built and natural world, and promotes consideration of contemporary environmental concerns. Lin’s diverse work achieves a balance between nature, science, and art by observing natural phenomena and imaginatively representing them as physical objects.

The 21 sculptures and drawings in Maya Lin, on view February 11–May 13, 2012, provide surprising glimpses into diverse aspects of water and land. Particle board blocks reflect a pass in the Rocky Mountain range, a cast of trickled silver represents the line of the Colorado River, and a square of recycled green glass with a rippled upper surface is reminiscent of ocean waves. The exhibition, organized in Pittsburgh by Carnegie Museum of Art curator of architecture Raymund Ryan, is an adaptation of the 2010 Maya Lin exhibition at the Arts Club of Chicago, which was hailed by critics as a tour de force.

Maya Lin grew up in Athens, Ohio, and has been inspired since childhood by the topography, nature, and history of the Ohio Valley. Lin has made one new work, Pin River – Ohio (Allegheny & Monongahela), 2012, specifically for the Pittsburgh display, a representation of the confluence of the city’s three rivers. In addition to the works on view in the architectural galleries, What is Missing?, a film from Lin’s multimedia project of the same name, will be screened in the museum’s Scaife Lobby.

“We are delighted to show Maya Lin’s ongoing environmental work in Pittsburgh,” says Ryan. “Over 25 years of highly focused work, Lin has made very beautiful objects and brought attention to key social and political concerns.”

As an architect and artist, Lin is highly conscious of the shape of the Earth’s surface and the sedimentation beneath. The sculpture Blue Lake Pass fills a room, topographically representing a zone in the Rocky Mountains. Lin placed a grid across a map of the site, then digitally plotted each section in three dimensions. She then sculpted these renderings as 20 blocks, each three feet square, their surfaces swelling with the contours of the mountain pass. Each block is pulled apart from the others in a grid, so that gallery visitors can walk through the sculpture. “I wanted to shift one’s perspective about the land, allowing a viewpoint that is more geologic in character,” said Lin about the piece.

Lin examines the physical qualities of water in its various manifestations, solidifying it as sculpture. In Dew Point 18, 18 blown glass rocks or spheroids suggest the unexpected and beautiful forms dewdrops take in nature. Lines of recycled silver trace the path of a small quantity of water as it falls to the floor in Drip, Drip/Drop, and Drip/Drip. For Pin River – Hudson, Lin pierces a wall with thousands of straight pins arranged so that their linear view of the Hudson River is enhanced by their shadows, creating the illusion of water’s movement.

Works in Lin’s Bodies of Water series, fabricated from horizontal layers of Baltic birch plywood, are three-dimensional models of the spaces occupied by water itself. The two examples in the exhibition reveal hidden underwater landscapes beneath the inland Caspian and Red Seas, showing the volume and shape of the spaces created by these environmentally threatened seabeds.

Maya Lin first came to public attention when she won the design competition for the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall in Washington DC in 1981. Over the years, Lin has created memorials to what she considers the major historical or cultural movements of our time: civil rights, women’s rights, Native American survival, and the environment. The film What is Missing?, on view in the museum’s Scaife Lobby, is from her final memorial project commemorating endangered habitats. Lin refers to those aspects of the environment as the “things that are disappearing before our eyes…from the sounds of songbirds to the visibility of stars at night.”

Maya Lin’s impressive creative output reflects years of engagement with landscapes, the environment, architecture, social movements, and natural phenomena. Maya Lin presents a rare opportunity to engage Lin’s work, and to encounter her engagement of Pittsburgh’s iconic landscape.

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