Walter De Maria’s 360° I Ching/64 Sculptures (1981) consists of 576 white-lacquered wood rods arranged into 64 groups of 6 parallel rows. Each row features either one long or two short rods, which are placed in a pattern determined by the sixty-four hexagrams of I Ching, an ancient Chinese book of philosophy and divination. Drawing on the binary system of the yin and yang, this ancient book acts as a guide for individuals to navigate the world and understand their daily experience of it. In the simplest sense, users randomly select two trigrams—unique combinations of three solid and/or broken lines (yin and yang)—that represent various natural elements. When two chosen trigrams merge, they form a complex and symbolically resonant hexagram.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, I Ching was a popular tool for artists interested in chance, in large part thanks to John Cage’s early experiments that used the book to determine aleatory compositional arrangements. De Maria had close ties to Cage’s circle. In 360° I Ching/64 Sculptures he carefully mapped each of the possible hexagrams of I Ching in order to make visible the underlying mathematical structure behind the book’s chance operations. 360° I Ching/64 Sculptures demonstrates a clear system of permutations, exhausting all of the possible ordered arrangements. That is, the sixty-four hexagrams represent every combination of three solid and/or broken lines paired with another three solid and/or broken lines.
De Maria used measurement and number as compositional principles throughout his career. In particular, he subversively deployed numerical systems in ways that emphasize the limits of visual perception. His Gold Meters (1976–77) and Silver Meters (1976), for example, confound the seemingly optical correlation between an increase in size and a corresponding increase in weight. In 360° I Ching/64 Sculptures the hexagrams are placed directly on the floor and seen from various angles in the round, as the title of the work suggests. As a result, the rods at times relinquish their iconographic meaning and become purely sculptural.
360° I Ching/64 Sculptures was commissioned by Dia Art Foundation in 1981. The concept of placing the rods on a bright red carpet was envisioned by De Maria in 1990. This is the rst public viewing of 360° I Ching/64 Sculptures in more than twenty-five years and the second installation with the red carpet.