Maya Lin: Here and There
About ten years ago Maya Lin made a pledge to devote the rest of her career to awakening the public's consciousness of environmental ills. This week she honored this noble commitment by opening two exhibitions at separate Pace Gallery locations. They share the title “Here and There”.
"Here" is exhibited at the 57th Street gallery in New York city; it features environmental issues related to the Hudson River. "There" is the exhibition at Pace's London location; it features the Thames River and its ecological history. Instead of documenting the presence of nasty situations, Lin's distincitive approach involves highlighting the absence of desirable conditions.
One manner in which she conveys this content consists of a series, initiated in 2006, of aerial contour maps of waterways. This imagery is evoked by the shadows cast from tens of thousands of stainless-steel pins that she inserts into a wall. These pristine reliefs have an ethereal beauty, and yet they are neither poetic interpretations nor realistic illustrations of the waterways they represent. Instead, each dispenses a disturbing environmental message - warnings, reminders, and evidence of human mismanagement that is robbing the planet of its vitality and depleting its diversity.
One work in this series traces the streams that meandered through Midtown Manhattan a century ago, but that have since been diverted or paved over. Another work traces the boundaries of Hurricane Sandy’s flood plain in lower Manhattan.
Also on view are rivers cast from recycled silver and others that are carved marble sculptures. Viewers can also click on a map to reveal data about deteriorating environmental conditions in hundreds of location's. These regrettable reminders are also projected on the gallery walls. Lin plans to eventually represent all the major rivers and estuaries of the world in these manners.
These evocative pictorial and sculptural representations reinforce the somber tone that pervades "What Is Missing?", an ambitious undertaking mourning the loss species, habitats, sounds and sights - all of which are being obliterated by intrustive human technologies.
The information that is conveyed is grounded by research into historical documents and scientific data. Thus, these works provide documented proof of its assertions. At the same time, Lin surrounds each bit of data with a profound emotional resonance. They propel the factual insights she conveys deep into the viewer's consciousness where they conduct a three-stage environmental mission: first they sensitize; then they affect, so ultimately they reform.