Skip to main content Start of main content

Alone in a Crowd: The Solitude of Walter De Maria’s New York Earth Room and Broken Kilometer

If, as Walter De Maria once suggested, ‘Isolation is the essence of Land Art’, then his Broken Kilometer (1979) and New York Earth Room (1977) might be said, albeit in a rather perverse way, to be quintessential examples of the genre. Of course, there is much to distinguish the pieces from what we conventionally think of as land art. Most obviously, unlike the specific work De Maria was discussing in his text – his own Lightning Field (1977), situated in desolate rural New Mexico – they are located not near some mesa deep in the lonely heart of the American West, but rather in one of the most heavily trafficked parts of the urbane American East. Among the longest-term residents of New York’s SoHo district, the projects have for more than 20 years occupied two pieces of prime real estate in the heart of one of the city’s most notoriously changeable neighbourhoods.