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Maya Lin and Richard Serra September 4, 2010

Filed under: Writings — chicapod @ 10:55 pm

One of my SOVA assignments.

1.       What makes Maya Lin’s work successful in public?

In her works, Maya Lin has maintained a careful balance between art and architecture, as seen from her most famous work, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The memorial is made up of two black granite walls which are 75 m long and sunk into the ground, with the earth behind them. This design is extremely simple, but its elegance flows through its landscape. As an architect, Lin also emphasizes the artistic value of her structures. For the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, her conception was to create an opening or a wound in the earth to symbolize the gravity of the loss of the soldiers. Her simple yet graceful style has been successful in public, garnering many awards and accolades.

Maya Lin “merges rational and technological order with notions of beauty and the transcendental.” In other words, she seeks to alter the natural landscape to find harmony between human activities and nature. Her works address how humans relate and respond to the environment, and presents new ways of looking at the world around us. They do not create any negative impacts on the pristine landscape, but rather beautifies and improve it further. This is also one of the factors of the success of Maya Lin’s work in public.

2.       What does Richard Serra mean by “site specific” for Tilted Arc?

It means that Tilted Arc is meant only for the Federal Plaza in New York City, where it was situated. If the sculpture was to be placed in somewhere other than the location mentioned above, it will not create as big impact on the viewers or might not be as ideal as it was in Federal Plaza. This is because the Federal Plaza has some pre-requisites that other places do not have; it is the location’s uniqueness that Tilted Arc is best when placed there.

Since the Federal Plaza is a central business district in New York, there are many busy people there at all times, whether outside or inside it. With Tilted Arc situated right in front of the office building, the employees of the building will have to walk around it to get to their workplace. Although many complained about the inconvenience posted, they are challenged to view the artwork in different angles and perspectives, dramatically changing the aesthetic of the plaza while doing so. As Richard Serra puts it, “The viewer becomes aware of himself and of his movement through the plaza. As he moves, the sculpture changes. Contraction and expansion of the sculpture result from the viewer’s movement. Step by step the perception not only of the sculpture but of the entire environment changes.”

There is also a kind of masculine beauty in Tilted Arc, which comes from its minimal Modernist lines and material. It is an abstracted shape that combines rough and massive material with its elegant and poetic lines at the same time, giving people an unconscious sense of hope at what lies at the end of the humongous steel curve.

The above is what Richard Serra means by “site specific” for Tilted Arc.


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