Thursday, November 19, 2015

The New York Earth Room_Dia Foundation in SOHO

Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room has been presenting in the heart of SOHO by the Dia Foundation since 1980. Literally, a gallery space was filled with 280,000 pounds of earth. 22 inches heights of earth placed neatly and evenly. Although the installation space is prohibited to enter, I could see inside. When I approached the installation work closely, I could smell soil and feel humidity and chilly air. It was a moment to feel the work with five senses. One step was enough to feel the huge difference of temperature between the installation environment and outside of the installation. The spatial experience from the installation made me feel that I was in under the ground. I was surprised that the installation work has been well maintained the humid environment without drying.

Although I could not enter into the installation space, my eyes were so busy to see the all parts of the space that I could not get bored. A combination of dark brown color of earth and unbelievably clean white walls aroused a huge minimal art work. The space seemed vivid black and white contrast however had perfect harmony together at the same time. Walter De Maria brought the mother of nature into the gallery space for conveying surrealistic experience. It was a new interpretation of the relationship between interior and exterior. The New York Earth Room took my breath by giving depaysement which is changing sensory by making the unfamiliar combination with familiar things.


  1. When we went to the Earth Room, I was a little underwhelmed honestly, maybe because I grew up with much more nature than most New Yorkers. However, since you have pointed out the intense minimalism the work invokes, I am inspired to revisit the gallery and look at it from a different perspective. I only thought of it as an experiment (or even a gimmick), but now I am more interested to look again at the textures of the dirt, the whiteness of the walls, and the contrast of the two with this idea in mind.

  2. The New York Earth Room is also one of my favorite installation in our Soho adventure for its straight-forward expression of nature. Growing up around rivers and mountains, The installation evoked memories of my childhood that have been numbed by the odorous New York air. Using soil as the single medium in sharp contrast with the artificial structure of the space, the minimal piece connects viewers to nature with a sensory experience. I think elaborating on the metropolitan location of The New York Earth Room will strengthen your response to the work.