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Walter De Maria

Walter De Maria, The Lightning Field, 1977, Quemado, New Mexico. Photo: John Cliett.

MYTHS THRIVE on an absence of information. It would be unfair to say that Walter De Maria was given to self-mythologizing, but he was an elusive, at times even evasive, figure. He has certainly been the least visible public personality among his contemporaries. Does this partly account for the peculiar fact that,despite its obvious significance—and its inclusion in such landmark exhibitions as “Primary Structures” at New York’s Jewish Museum in 1966 and “When Attitudes Become Form” at Kunsthalle Bern in 1969—his art can almost be described as obscure? Given that certain works by De Maria are nonetheless fixed in the popular imagination, one may conclude that his reticence has only heightened the cultish stature of his historical identity.

An overview of De Maria’s career reveals a seeming disconnect: Two different artists appear to be in play. The work for which he is

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