Walter De Maria (1931–2013) approached art conceptually. He once said, “Any work of art should have at least ten meanings.” He also wrote a short manifesto called Meaningless Work (1960). The first line: “Meaningless work is obviously the most important and significant art form today.” He goes on to say, “By meaningless work I simply mean work which does not make money or accomplish a conventional purpose. For instance putting wooden blocks from one box to another, then putting them back to the original box, back and forth, back and forth etc., is a fine example of meaningless work. Or digging a hole, then covering it is another example.” The Menil Collection, the first museum to survey De Maria’s 50-year career, focuses on his concept of “meaningless work,” opening with the artist’s 1960s plywood sculptures, which he described as arbitrary, lighthearted, and having no worries about an intended outcome. De Maria’s radically simple structures preceded the development of Minimalism, Conceptualism, and the Earth Art movement. —C.M.
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