New Criterion, May 2020
Public Art by Artist, Designer, and Environmentalist Maya Lin Debuts at Princeton University in Fall 2019
PRINCETON, N.J. – Two major new commissions by renowned artist Maya Lin will be dedicated this fall on the grounds of the Lewis Center for the Arts complex at Princeton University. The two works, The Princeton Line, an undulating sculpted line of molded earth that travels a steep slope, and Einstein’s Table, a granite “water table,” are important additions to the University’s public art collection, already deemed to be among the finest in the nation.
Lin will be on campus for a public program on Nov. 5, 2019, in which she will be interviewed on stage in the University’s Richardson Auditorium by James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director of the Princeton University Art Museum.
The Princeton Line, installed near the western edge of the University campus in 2018, belongs to Lin’s series of earth drawings, outdoor earth sculptures that mediate between drawing and sculpture, two-and three-dimensional space. The work takes its name from the train line that once extended to the site where the Lewis Arts Complex now stands, as well as referencing the way in which Lin has “folded” the earth following an undulating line. Lin’s installation welcomes visitors who arrive at the nearby train station and transit hub.
Completed in 2019, Einstein’s Table is an 11-foot diameter granite “water table” whose elliptical shape recalls drawings of the Earth’s orbit around the sun. The table’s jet mist stone, sourced from a quarry in Culpeper, Virginia, was chosen for its subtle white striation, gently reminiscent of the appearance of the Milky Way in the night sky. The elliptical orb, along with the water weir and fountain at its center, were designed by Lin as an homage to onetime Princeton resident Albert Einstein and his theory on black holes. Like Lin’s earth drawing, this work also extends a series within Lin’s practice, in this case a series of site-responsive water tables that were initially inspired in the 1990s by another sculpture on Princeton’s campus, Scott Burton’s Public Table (1978–79). Both artists’ works in the form reflect an interest in activating communal spaces. Of Lin’s work to date in the water table form, examples of which can be found on the campuses of Yale and Brown universities, Einstein’s Table is the most abstract.
“The two Princeton works tap into my dual interests in immersive and environmental earthworks, as well as my focus on a more object-oriented cartographic and science-based approach,” said Lin. “The Princeton project is all about finding a sustainable landscape approach that blends in with the existing site.”
Together, the two works, sited in dynamic visual relationship to each other and to the Steven Holl-designed Lewis Arts Complex, completed in 2017, welcome visitors to the Princeton campus arriving via the “Dinky”, the local rail line that links Princeton to main line train travel along the Northeast Corridor.
“Maya Lin’s sensitive and studied considerations of context, space and ecosystems have resulted in a project of beautiful abstraction that reflects our commitment to the arts and the sciences, and that now deepens the gateway experience of the campus first shaped by Steven Holl,” said Steward. “I’ve wanted to add Maya’s work to the Princeton campus for over ten years, and am thrilled that these works now join this beautiful environment.”
A designer whose creative practice extends from public art to sculptural objects to architecture, Lin first achieved international recognition as an undergraduate at Yale University, when her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., was chosen in a national competition. During the course of her remarkable interdisciplinary career, Lin has created a lasting and highly influential body of work that includes residential and institutional architecture, a powerful range of memorials (including her most recent, a web-based project focused on species loss), and site-based outdoor work such as the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama (1989); Wave Field (2008) at Storm King Art Center in upstate New York; and A Fold in the Field (2013) near Auckland, New Zealand.
Lin lives and works in New York City. She received her B.A. and M.A. in architecture from Yale. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Medal of Arts in 2009 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Princeton University boasts one of the most significant public art collections in the United States, including masterworks by major artists of the twentieth century such as Alexander Calder, Michele Oka Doner, Jacques Lipchitz, Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, Richard Serra, David Smith and Tony Smith. A flourishing of public art commissioning in the past decade has led to newly commissioned works by artists including Odili Donald Odita, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Shahzia Sikander and Doug and Mike Starn.
Visit https://artmuseum.princeton.edu/collections/objects/134355 for more information.
About the Princeton University Art Museum
With a collecting history that extends back to 1755, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country, with collections that have grown to include over 110,000 works of art ranging from ancient to contemporary art and spanning the globe.
Committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions, the Art Museum also serves as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world. Intimate in scale yet expansive in scope, the Museum offers a respite from the rush of daily life, a revitalizing experience of extraordinary works of art and an opportunity to delve deeply into the study of art and culture.
The Princeton University Art Museum is located at the heart of the Princeton campus, a short walk from the shops and restaurants of Nassau Street. Admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday 12 to 5 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.
Art@Bainbridge, the Museum’s new gallery project dedicated to emerging contemporary artists, is located at 158 Nassau Street in downtown Princeton. Admission is free. Art@Bainbridge hours are Sunday to Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For more information: artmuseum.princeton.edu
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