|Known for||Public Commissions, Sculpture, Photography|
Elyn Zimmerman (born 1945) is an American sculptor known for her emphasis on large scale, site specific projects and environmental art. Along with these works, Zimmerman has exhibited drawings and photographs since graduating with an MFA in painting and photography at University of California, Los Angeles in 1972. Her teachers included Robert Heineken, Robert Irwin, and Richard Diebenkorn.
In the mid 1970s Zimmerman created a number of temporary, site-specific installations for museum and gallery exhibitions. Some of these projects were presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Hudson River Museum, NY; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; and the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC.
Zimmerman's permanent sculpture works, beginning in the 1980s, range from studio pieces and private commissions, to large scale projects for civic, university and corporate sites.
Zimmerman's career as a sculptor began when she returned to California after a trip to India in 1977 where she was profoundly inspired by the archeological sites she visited. This trip precipitated her interest in doing outdoor projects and to work with stone. Upon her return she was invited to do temporary outdoor works at venues such as Artpark, Lewiston, NY; 1980 Winter Olympics, Lake Placid, NY; Laguna Gloria Art Museum, Austin, TX, and other spaces. As she has written, the ability to experiment with new materials and to learn while creating these temporary projects was invaluable and gave her confidence to create the permanent commissions that came later.
These permanent projects, beginning in 1980, are recognized for their use of stone, water, (reflecting pools, fountains) and landscape elements. Included among these large scale, public commissions is a fountain to memorialize the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York City; the design of the sculpture garden at the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama; a fountain and seating area for AT&T headquarters in New Jersey; and the plaza design at the National Geographic headquarters in Washington, DC featuring a large pool surrounded by polished and natural cleft granite boulders.
During her undergraduate years at UCLA, Zimmerman took classes in the fine arts program while completing a BA in perceptual psychology. It was her knowledge in this discipline and her interest in contemporary art that led her to start working for Jim Turrell and Robert Irwin, doing research for their joint project for the Art and Technology exhibition at LACMA in 1967.
Working as an independent student with Robert Heineken in photography and Richard Diebenkorn in painting, she was accepted into the MFA program in 1968 and graduated with an MFA in 1972.
In the 1960s and 1970s Los Angeles was home for many art communities as well as quality art colleges: Chouinard Art Institute, Otis Parsons Art Institute, California Institute of the Arts, and the art departments at UCLA and USC.
To compensate for the scarcity of art museums interested in contemporary art and the lack of art galleries, save for well-known Ferus Gallery founded by Walter Hopps, there were alternative art exhibition spaces, such as L.A.C.E and LAICA. In 1962 ArtForum was founded in San Francisco; the Feminist Art Movement began in 1971 with roots at CalArts; LACMA initiated the first museum exhibition of Art &Technology, and what came to be called the LA Light and Space Movement was generated, making use of unconventional venues to exhibit artist's projects.
Zimmerman's work in graduate school was influenced by this rich environment as well as by the young architect she lived with during those years. He had been in the peace corps and traveled through India, Nepal and Central Asia. The images and cultural influences he shared when they met fueled her desire to travel and investigate the world herself. Together they traveled throughout the American southwest and to Mexico to see Native American and Pre-Columbian archeological sites, as well as visit the progressive modern architecture.
Between her undergraduate and graduate years Zimmerman worked in a diverse number of positions. She was a part-time studio assistant for several artists until she was hired to work at Columbia Records in Hollywood as assistant to the head designer in the art department. She left that job when an offer came from the Charles and Ray Eames office in Venice to be the assistant to the house photographer and to run their darkroom.
Zimmerman and Kirk Varnedoe began a correspondence in 1975 after he wrote an enthusiastic article about the drawing and photographic piece she exhibited in the 1974 Whitney Biennial. She was in NYC in 1976 to install a project at PS1 when they met for coffee, from that point on engaging in a long distance relationship. In 1977 Zimmerman moved to New York City where she and Varnedoe shared a loft in the newly named Tribeca neighborhood. They married in 1983. He was a professor of art history at NYU's Institute of Fine Art and she taught studio classes at SUNY Purchase. Varnedoe's deep knowledge of western art history and his widely celebrated talent to convey this information to students, colleagues and friends enriched Zimmerman's understanding of and appreciation for these traditions. On the other hand, her studies of oriental art history, her residency in Japan, and travels to India and China became new interests of his.
In 1979, the National Endowment for the Arts started a new program called Art in Public Places. Projects using government funds were required to use a percentage of the funds for artworks specific to the project at hand. Zimmerman was awarded one of the first of these projects in 1979, for Fort Lincoln Park in Washington, DC. Although the project was never realized, it began her relationship with Cold Spring Granite Company in Cold Spring, MN. This would become her major source of stone materials for over 30 years.
When the National Geographic Society selected David Childs of SOM to design their new headquarters in Washington, DC his office sought out artists who worked with stone. This became Zimmerman's first substantial commission, reinforcing her desire to pursue this type of artwork and to learn more about all the aspects of creating outdoor public projects including: construction methods; landscape requirements; sustainable building practices and materials sources. It was after spending considerable time at stone quarries that she became interested in also making smaller more intimate stone sculptures.
Elyn Zimmerman has exhibited for more than 40 years in Europe, Australia, Japan, and the United States. Including but not limited to the following:
Selected public and corporate collections include: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Telfair Museum Jepson Center, Savannah; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham; Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover; AT&T Corporation, Basking Ridge; British Museum, London; Chase Manhattan Bank Corporation, New York; Clos Pegase Winery Sculpture Garden, Napa Valley; Commodities Corporation, Princeton; Equitable Corporation, New York; General Mills Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis; Goldman Sachs Corporate Collection, New York; Henry Buhl Collection, New York; Kramarsky Collection, New York.