A vanguard force within four major art historical movements—minimalism, conceptual art, land art, and installation art—De Maria’s oeuvre uses mathematical absolutes and elements of the sublime to push the boundaries of the traditional white cube. In the early 1990s, De Maria conceived of, and partially constructed, Truth / Beauty, a series of fourteen sculptures in seven pairs. Completed after De Maria’s death by the Estate according to his vision, the series expands upon his use of permutations of rods, polygons, and numerical sequences intended to be viewed in a counterclockwise progression. Each pair consists of two arrangements of four rods placed upon granite bases: one composition is a chevron pattern and the other resembles an “X.” Each base has TRUTH and BEAUTY engraved on opposite sides. The first pair comprises 5-sided rods, and the rods increase by 2 sides with each successive couple, culminating in 17-sided rods. The granite bases and steel rods were on view earlier this year at Gagosian London, but in Paris the arrangement has been configured specifically for the Le Bourget gallery and its mezzanine passerelle. The sculpture can be seen from the ground as well as from above, recalling the 1981–82 installation of De Maria’s 360° I Ching / 64 Sculptures at Centre Georges Pompidou, when the rods were arranged within a sunken area of the museum lobby floor and could only be viewed from the mezzanine level.
The Large Rod Series: Circle/Rectangle 11 (1986) consists of eleven 11-sided, hand-welded and polished stainless steel rods. It is part of a series of rod floor sculptures from the 1980s, each pertaining to an odd number, from 5 to 13. For this particular work, there are three possible layouts: a large rectangle, a short rectangle and a circle; here it has been configured in the short rectangle format. It occupies a room adjacent to the main gallery and has been installed atop a nineteenth century Indian Agra carpet, a juxtaposition inspired by the artist’s 1986 exhibition of the same floor sculpture on an Afghan carpet.
The earliest work in the exhibition is a series of drawings, The Pure Polygon Series (1975–76). This includes seven hand-drawn pencil drawings that begin with a triangle and follow with six additional shapes in succession. Faintly traced lines on 36-inch square American etching paper encourage intimate viewing, a level of physical engagement akin to that motivated by De Maria’s sculpture.