I have never been to either of these two Dia Foundation SoHo galleries and found someone else there too so they are places where I can expect quietude not only by artists’ intent but also by circumstance. This empty gallery experience is uncommon in New York.
The first is The New York Earth Room (1977) at 141 Wooster, one half block below Houston. It is the third version constructed by Walter de Maria, and the only one remaining. Created from 3,600 square feet of earth, 2 feet deep, laid out flat on the second floor of a SoHo loft—it is a dim, serene, virtually silent space imbued with scent and dampness. It is for that that I go, to collect my thoughts or to shed them, both important activities during my day, or week.
The second, The Broken Kilometer (1979), is around the corner at 393 West Broadway. Composed of 3,280 feet of 2 inch diameter brass rod, cut into 500 pieces arrayed on the floor, it is totally different from the Earth Room, yet remarkably similar in effect. Gorgeous. The longer I stay, the better it looks. It is a companion piece to Vertical Earth Kilometer in Germany which is the equivalent length embedded vertically 1,000 meters into the earth.
I usually tack on a visit to one or the other gallery when I visit my friend Jane, who lives in a 1960s SoHo loft.
de Maria died in 2017.