Maya Lin: A River Is a Drawing

An Immersive, Site-Specific Exhibition that Explores the Geology and Topography
of the Hudson River and the Effects of Climate Change

October 12, 2018 — January 20, 2019

Image: Maya Lin, Folding the Chesapeake, 2015. Glass marbles, adhesive. Smithsonian American Art Museum Permanent Collection. Photo Credit: Ron Blunt, courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum.

A recipient of the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom for her outstanding contributions as an artist, architect, and environmental activist, Maya Lin (born 1959) sees and interprets the natural world through art, science, history, and culture. Maya Lin: A River Is a Drawing is a groundbreaking exhibition developed in close collaboration between the HRM and this visionary artist, focusing on the theme of the Hudson River. With the Museum's architectural features and location along the banks of the river as a potent backdrop, Lin will create a series of new works and ambitious site-specific installations that invite visitors to interact.

The exhibition will be presented in seven sections, with all of the new works created along the theme of the Hudson River.

  • A majestic and immersive installation from grass bamboo stalks in the form of a 3D drawing of the Hudson River basin will be in the Museum Courtyard.
  • Lin will create a drawing in silver in the HRM Veranda, an overhang looking out to the river vista, connecting existing cracks, holes, bumps on the grounds, visually connecting the Museum's campus to the river.
  • A 35-foot piece will cascade through the Museum's Atrium, an augmented seafloor map of the Hudson Canyon with contours drawn with webbing wires.
  • "What Is Missing?"—an updated version of the room-size, multi-channel video installation Empty Room (2009), part of Maya Lin's ongoing interactive digital art project and environmental advocacy movement and a work she refers to as her "last memorial"
  • New drawings on paper that magnify points of interest in various rivers around the world with which she has thus far intimately engaged for artistic creations, including, and most significantly, relating to Lin's own "habitat," the Hudson.
  • A series of encaustic relief sculptures based on the Laurentide Ice Sheet, which condense shapes of glacial changes of past millennial cycles and represent the colossal effects of climate change that continue to shape our environment.

Maya Lin sees rivers as "fluid moving drawings—delineated and drawn out." While water as the critical, life-bestowing element of nature has been her recurring motif in her artworks, she has never before concentrated so deeply on one specific river as in this exhibition, which is so integral to the history and development of New York and the broader northeastern region of US. Using many different materials, Lin explores the Hudson River's movement in time and space—how it flows, shapes, and is shaped by the land.

As we experience effects of climate change with increasing frequency and intensity, it is urgent to become aware of what happened in the environment before and what is happening to it now. The exhibition River Is a Drawing gives form to the macrocosmic workings of nature, as embodied in the Hudson River, and brings its presence in an affective, human scale.

To complement Maya Lin: A River Is a Drawing, there will be an Exhibition Catalog and a full menu of interdisciplinary programming. Visitors of all ages and backgrounds will be invited to explore and engage with Lin's visual interpretations of the world in which we live, the macrocosmic presence of nature, and the impact of our human role within it. Programs will include an Artist Lecture with Maya Lin, a Gallery Tour with Guest Curator Miwako Tezuka, and Sunday Scholar Series lectures with leading art historians and environmental historians and advocates. The Museum will also be partnering with a variety of organizations such as Riverkeeper, Wave Hill, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema-Yonkers, and the Center for the Urban River at Beczak (Sarah Lawrence College) on education programs and art, design, and environmental activities.


Major sponsorship is made possible by generous grants from Bloomberg Philanthropies
and The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts.

Lead sponsorship is provided by Louise and Leonard Riggio.

Lead sponsorship for the exhibition, as well as annual STEM-based school programming, is provided by Con Edison.

Exhibition programs are supported by the WLS Spencer Foundation.

Sponsorship is provided by Ginsburg Development Companies and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Support for the exhibition catalog is provided by Pace Gallery.

Additional support is provided by LPE Engineering PC, Kevin Luke, The Lunder Foundation, Thierry Porté,
VPL, and the Stanley Family Fund.

Read the full press release here.