Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes
De Young Museum, San Francisco
Through Jan. 18

In the 1980s, at age 21, Maya Lin suddenly became “one of the United States’ most acclaimed public artists,” said Victoria Dalkey in The Sacramento Bee. Her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.—a black slab of marble cut into the Washington Mall—perfectly captured the emotions of a country still shaken by the conflict. Since then, she has continued to create artworks that interact with the natural environment or otherwise reflect her preoccupation with it. A “tightly focused” exhibition of sculptures by Lin at the De Young Museum “relate to endangered bodies of water and mountain ranges.” In the museum courtyard, she’s piled 60,000 two-by-fours into a 10-foot-high “hill.” Other works include a meditation on seas and rivers, “made of innumerable nails pounded into the wall.”

These ersatz landscapes are all based on actual landmasses, said Heidi Benson in the San Francisco Chronicle. Water Line, which hangs above museumgoers’ heads, “traces the contours of the remote Antarctic island of Bouvet.” Blue Lake Pass, which uses particle board to re-create a Colorado mountain range, is “as lovingly rendered and as striking as a 19th-century Western landscape painting.” Lin’s sculptures have a feel for texture that makes them powerfully expressive, even lush, though she’s “often called minimalist. These works, like their natural counterparts, shift their aspects depending on your point of view and “the light at different times of day.” Lin hasn’t quite “brought nature indoors,” but her sculptural forms should cause us to look more closely at the natural ones that surround us.