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Maya Lin at the de Young

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Yesterday, my family and I headed into the city to check out the California Academy of Sciences, in Golden Gate Park, which reopened recently for the first time in decades. Sadly, other people had the same idea. Parking was impossible, the lines rivalled Disneyland, and they started metering admission – one in one out, like a night club – at 11am.

Needless to say, we didn’t wait around. After regrouping at the tea gardens, we went to the de Young museum next door and caught a few of their new exhibits instead.

The first one we saw was a chronology of Asian American artists. It had a number of beautiful scrolls, but overall, the aesthetics of the different pieces were too scattered and jarring for the exhibit to come together as a whole.

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When I got to the end of the exhibit, everything fell into place. It had all been a prelude to a stunning collection of geological sculptures by Maya Lin, best known for the Vietnam war memorial.

The mediums ranged from plywood to bent wire to bas reliefs embedded in the walls, and the sources ranged from the Dead Sea to Hetch Hetchy reservoir. They were strikingly beautiful. Each one was devoid of detail, little more than a sketch, but still managed to convey an arresting sense of place and physicality. They were surreal, and at the same time, utterly grounded. I loved them. A few fell flat, but even those were interesting, and worth seeing.

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I enjoyed the other exhibits too, especially the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective and a collection of exploratory photographs, but for my money, the Maya Lin pieces were the highlight. Maybe the Academy of Sciences has something that can compete. I guess I’ll find out next time – but only if the lines are tolerable!

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