Posts Tagged ‘Larry Bell’
James Turrell’s retrospective exhibition opens next week at LACMA. There will be simultaneous installations at the Guggenheim and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and I just read a superb article published by the LA Times, written by Jori Finkel, about Turrell. All of the recent press about James Turrell’s three upcoming museum exhibitions, complemented by his concurrent solo show at the Kayne Griffin Corcoran Gallery, has me thinking about Light and Space artists. The term “Light and Space” is usually used to refer works made by a certain group of West Coast artists. I’m in agreement with Dawna Schuld, who wrote in 2011 that “while it is a useful and historically established label, “Light and Space” is also misleading in describing this art, because it overlooks the essential integrative ingredient, which is perception.”
Perceptual phenomena—especially visual phenomena—are the central focus of many Los Angeles artists’ work, rather than the material processes they use to achieve their goals. For example, I sometimes see writers link Larry Bell’s work in glass to the hot-rod car culture of Southern California. However, the obsession with perfect, gleaming surfaces relates only superficially to Larry’s interests. He never drove a hot-rod or participated in car culture, and was involved in the folk music movement of the late 50s, hardly a “slick” scene. But Larry was there at the leading edge of artists’ investigations into visual perception.
Some of the most interesting origins of the movement are experiments that Turrell and Robert Irwin participated in with the late Edward Wortz, who was then working at Garrett AiResearch in aerospace perceptual psychology. As cited in Lawrence Weschler’s book Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, there was also a conference of architects and experts that was held in Venice in 1970, titled “The National Symposium on Habitability”. Larry Bell created two different rooms in his Market Street studio, which explored the concept of habitability. The first of these spaces was described by Wortz as “so oppressive that it was never used. People would just go in, turn around, and leave.” He constructed the second room with walls which were “angled in such a way as to render the space extremely reverberant, so that people kept having to scoot their chairs closer and closer in order to hear one another.” Bell also designed and installed the “Blue Room” (pictured on the right), which has been re-created for MOCA and for his survey show in Nîmes.
Stephanie Hanor did a great job describing the relationship between process and perception, writing in her 2011 essay that, “While the Los Angeles artists acknowledged the impact of location, their primary interests were the nature of perception and of the relationship between observer and observed, the subject and the object; their use of new industrial materials and processes was in service of investigating this dynamic.”
Larry’s work, like that of other artists who are often placed in the Light and Space movement, focuses on awareness of human perception. Whether he was creating the illusion of volume in paintings, constructing experimental environments, or using metallic particles to interfere with the passage of light through glass, Larry’s work defies our expectations. By asking viewers to reconsider what they’re looking at, his art creates a perceptual experience that allows us to see the work, and the world, in new ways.
 Schuld, Dawna. “Practically Nothing: Light, Space, and the Pragmatics of Phenomenology.” In Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011), 109.
 Weschler, Lawrence, quoting Edward Wortz. Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982), 132-133.
 Hanor, Stephanie. “The Material of Immateriality.” In Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011), 128.
Today I am opening a new exhibition of recent works by Larry Bell at the gallery. The show includes 22 Small Figures, a luminously beautiful series of collage works as well as selected examples of Light Knots, a series of three-dimensional kinetic sculptures. These sculptures derive from Larry’s current collages, a kinship reflected in their shape and composition, as well as their materials.
Light Knots begin their lives as sheets of Mylar film, which Larry cuts, folds, and coats with vaporized metallic particles. Hung from the ceiling with monofilament, the nearly weightless works sway with the slightest air movement. Their iridescent layers shift and shimmer in the light, reflecting the surrounding environment. Like the collages, the appearance of the Light Knots shifts dramatically depending on the ambient light and the viewer’s position towards them.
According to Larry, “the colors you see are not pigments, they are what is known as interference color…the same as a little gas on a puddle of water at a filling station.” The surfaces of the Knots transmit, reflect, and absorb light, continuing the artist’s lifelong fascination with the nature of perception, and how to manipulate its properties.
Here’s a video filmed and produced by Ollie Bell, which really captures the beauty of the Light Knots.
I’m often asked by visitors for recommendations to local gallery and museum shows. Although it hasn’t opened yet, I’m betting that the upcoming Norton Simon Museum exhibition, Beyond Brancusi: The Space of Sculpture, is going to be one to remember. Opening April 26th, the show will investigate how Constantin Brancusi influenced some of the great sculptors of the twentieth century through his innovative use of space and material.
I’ve always felt that the Norton Simon is a great local museum with an outstanding permanent collection, which they are drawing on exclusively for this show. Excitingly, they will be including two important works by gallery artists that were not previously on view at the museum. Larry Bell and Craig Kauffman will both have major pieces on display in the show, which will also include artists such as Henry Moore, Donald Judd, and Robert Irwin, among many other artists of note.
The Larry Bell artwork that is featured in Beyond Brancusi is a 40 x 40 x 40 inch Untitled cube from 1969. As one of the largest cubes ever fabricated by the artist, this work is certainly deserving of more attention and I look forward to seeing how it will be installed. Craig Kauffman will be represented in the exhibition by an Untitled Loop, also from 1969. Constructed of a draped sheet of acrylic plastic and spray painted in contrasting blue and red, the work will cast reflections of colored light on its surrounding walls.
I’m really looking forward to the opening of this show, which was organized by Norton Simon Associate Curator Leah Lehmbeck. It’s going to be a great opportunity to see works that are rarely on view, from the permanent collection of one of my favorite museums.
This morning I had breakfast with Larry Bell, and we began talking about London. Bell has had several shows in London, including a group show at the Hayward Gallery in 1971 titled “11 Los Angeles Artists”, curated by Maurice Tuchman for the Arts Council of Great Britain. That exhibit was an eclectic mix, ranging from John Altoon to William Wegman and from Ken Price to Bruce Nauman and Richard Diebenkorn. Bell exhibited three thin, coated glass shelves, illuminated by light that cast a colored shadow on the wall, above and below. Bell was working with large-scale environmental installations of glass, and also made a multi-panel piece for that show, consisting of nine units of standing coated glass, each six feet high by five feet wide.
One year before, in 1970, the Tate Modern mounted a prescient exhibition of three Light and Space artists, simply titled “Larry Bell, Robert Irwin, Doug Wheeler,” and organized by Michael Compton. As was noted in both exhibitions, Larry Bell’s work deals with the properties of light, and the large installations used the material of glass to reflect, transmit, and absorb light. While it is true that he had been associated with minimalism and with primary geometric form, the large-scale environments led viewers into a new perceptual awareness of transparency, light and reflection.
The Tate Modern collection includes six Larry Bell works, and this morning I learned that three of those are now on view. Since I’ve been writing about the gallery’s artists in museum collections, this news came as an opportunity for the blog. I’ll be showing new work by Bell in early May. This show will be all new work, from a series of collages and vapor drawings that exploit the brilliant reflective properties of materials made with Bell’s process of thin film deposition of metallic particles. For those who would like to learn more about Bell’s work, last year’s in-depth interview by Tyler Green on Modern Art Notes is a superb way to pick up Bell’s history as a podcast. But don’t miss the large group of photos on the MAN blog and the link to Ollie Bell’s video of the Larry Bell survey in Nimes, “In Perspective.”
One of the most gratifying aspects of my work at the gallery is seeing our artists’ works included in museum exhibitions and collections. Whether the pieces are on display for a temporary show or are being added to the permanent collection, it’s great to see artists get the recognition they deserve. I’m also interested in the ways curators perceive and present works that are familiar to me – often shedding new light on their significance or illuminating connections with other artists.
Right now, Canton Collection by Richard Shaw is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston as part of their exhibition “New Blue and White.” Referring to the tradition of blue and white porcelain, a practice with its roots in the Islamic world as well as Asia, Europe, and the Americas, the show explores how contemporary artists draw inspiration from this rich history. A signature trompe-l’oeil work, Canton Collection is a great example of appropriating historical practices for contemporary purposes. Shaw hand-painted original designs in the style of Chinese blue and white porcelain on the vessels he fabricated for this piece, but they can’t be used for their traditional purposes. Permanently attached to each other, the vessels allude to functionality but ultimately deny it.
Another gallery artist on display at a major museum is Craig Kauffman at the Museum of Modern Art. With several works in their permanent collection, Kauffman’s 1968 Untitled bubble has a prominent position in MoMA’s fourth floor gallery. Acquired for the museum by legendary curator Kynaston McShine, Untitled was first exhibited in the 1969 show “Five Recent Acquisitions,” alongside works by Larry Bell, Ron Davis, Robert Irwin and John McCracken. This ground breaking show was re-staged by P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in 2010 as part of their large-scale “1969” exhibition, which sought to explore the art of this tumultuous period. Back home at MoMA, Untitled really makes a statement about the early critical response to Craig Kauffman’s work.
Larry Bell also has great representation in museum collections across the country. The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden has on display a 1964 Untitled cube, bequeathed to the museum in 1981 after the death of Joseph Hirshhorn. Bell has an installation on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum as well. Made in 1987-1988, this ten foot high room installation can be seen on the third floor of the east wing, where its reflective properties play with visitors’ visual perceptions. A large-scale installation was recently included in the PST show “Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface,” held at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in late 2011.
Over the years, my gallery has taken on all sorts of guises, from exhibition space to lecture hall. But perhaps its most elegant makeover is when it becomes a private dining room. We’ve put together the menu, gone over the guest lists, and had the catering company plan the meal for dinners from 20 to 100 people. It’s a great way to get friends of the artists and the gallery’s supporters to gather in the space with the art.
The largest of these dinners was held in 2000, on the occasion of the Peter Voulkos show of bronzes, a massive and monumental group of work. I took the suggestion of my neighbor, Patricia Faure, and set the dinner up in her space—just to the east of the gallery. We had 100 guests—far more than originally planned, but a truly significant group of people who had known Peter during the previous five decades. As usual, the late Henry Hopkins (who had known Voulkos since the 1950s in Los Angeles as well as the 70s and 80s in San Francisco) served as the toastmaster. Guests ranging from Frank and Berta Gehry to Sid Felsen and Joni Weyl gathered to honor the legendary Voulkos.
Another dinner was just under 50 people, honoring artist Larry Bell in February, 2008. Larry was kind enough to talk about his show of new works on paper, and our guests were treated to a fabulous sit-down dinner. We had the honor of hosting the Director of MOCA, Jeremy Strick and his wife, as well as many of Larry’s oldest friends, including Stanley and Elyse Grinstein and John Mason. Among the others were collectors and curators, all seated in a refined and elegant setting amidst the luminous new collages.
More recently, we co-hosted a dinner honoring Ed Moses, during his 2010 exhibition. Ed invited some of his long-time friends, and we invited some of his long-term supporters. This time, the connections made at the dinner resulted in the placement of a Moses painting at a museum! For this event we moved the feast next door, but still the style remained—a kind of transformation of the gallery space into a small and intimate private restaurant. It’s that kind of personal experience, and sense of community, that makes the art world rewarding.
The Frank Lloyd Gallery maintains a Vimeo channel, where we post videos of events held in the gallery. These videos document exhibition walk-throughs or conversations with artists, and allow friends of the gallery who were not able to attend the event in person to experience it nonetheless. So far we have produced five examples.
The first of these videos is an exhibition walk-through of our Pacific Standard Time show, Larry Bell: Early Works. We followed that up with an interview of Larry Bell by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, where he shared the story of his discovery of the thin-film evaporation process.
The gallery’s next video production documented another of our PST shows – Peter Voulkos in L.A.: Time Capsule. Both Larry and Ollie Bell spoke about Peter Voulkos’ historical significance within the Los Angeles art scene, and offered commentary on the show, which presented work from the artist’s personal collection.
Our most recent videos document two shows that we exhibited over the summer. In one, I interviewed Scot Heywood regarding his show Polarities. Scot was great, speaking insightfully about his artistic development. In the other, Larry Bell returned to lead an exhibition walk-through of our Ken Price show. His close personal and professional relationship with Ken really came through as he shared stories about the artist and his work.
If you haven’t seen all of the videos we’ve produced, I encourage you to take a look at them on the Frank Lloyd Gallery Vimeo channel. We’re working on producing more of these, so stay tuned!
Those who follow my blog might remember my love of landscape photos. It’s something that I share with Jennifer Lee, our Scottish ceramist who lives in London. Jennifer sent a wondrous picture of the Scottish sky, with a stark silhouette of a tree—a reminder of winter. It’s a picture of the year’s passage.
2012 was filled with accomplishment for the gallery. It’s also been a year of amazing statistics for the blog. As I’ve been noting lately, the gallery has a truly international presence, a fact borne out by the global reach of the blog. In the past year, the blog has been viewed in 114 countries! People seem to be reading quite of few of the 163 blog posts.
The world-wide visitors came searching, mostly for Peter Voulkos, Craig Kauffman, Larry Bell, Gustavo Pérez, and Richard Neutra. While that might seem eclectic, it represents the scope of the gallery and the blog: a concentration of interest in the major artists that emerged on the West Coast during the post-WWII era, and a complementary interest in international ceramics as well as architecture. The posts that were viewed the most times in 2012:
I’m looking forward to the New Year, and want to thank everyone for reading!
I’ve written about the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s exhibition Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface before, but I recently stumbled upon a couple of videos that reminded me of the beauty of the show. MCASD has produced five beautifully shot and insightfully narrated videos that document some of the challenges and successes of their 2012 exhibition. Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, Craig Kauffman and De Wain Valentine are all highlighted in these videos, which give viewers a chance to relive Phenomenal.
Curator Robin Clark and research assistant Christie Mitchell provide illuminating commentary, on the works as well as the kinds of practical decisions that needed to be made. The discussion of natural versus artificial lighting is particularly interesting, as many of the artworks are inherently light-responsive.
I especially like the video that pairs Robert Irwin with Craig Kauffman, as the artists were friends and colleagues who enjoyed an exchange of ideas. The Larry Bell video explains the delicate process of setting up his five-paneled installation from 1970. It’s great to hear Larry talk about the experience of installing an older work, and to see the pleasure he still takes in the piece.
If you haven’t seen all of the videos produced by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego for Phenomenal, I encourage you to take a look at the following link: http://www.mcasd.org/exhibitions/phenomenal-california-light-space-surface-0. Just click “Media” to find the available videos.
This past weekend we participated in the second annual LA-Art Platform art fair, held at the Santa Monica Airport’s Barker Hangar. To fill our cozy booth, we brought along works by Larry Bell, Craig Kauffman, and Cindy Kolodziejski. Cindy’s installation, a re-worked version of her Portraits of Sorts and Curiosities, attracted a lot of attention from the press and fair attendees.
For the fair, Cindy produced 19 new pieces, which she integrated with works from 2011 to create the new installation. She and her husband then personally hung, salon-style, the 74 individual works, creating a stunning ensemble piece. Mounted in a variety of antique frames, some ornately carved or gilded, these small-scale “portraits” fuse two-dimensional imagery with three-dimensional objects that Cindy found, modified, or created. The works address themes as diverse as her materials, and demonstrate her distinctive mix of anatomical, botanical, figurative, and text-based imagery. Framing the curiously eclectic pieces in the style of treasured mementos created an unusual – but still playful – tension that visitors really responded to.
Cindy was generous enough to attend the fair all three days it was open, answering the many questions of the public. Because her integration of found and fabricated objects is so seamless, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two in her finished works. It was a pleasure to hear Cindy explain her process to excited fair-goers, who enjoyed their chance to hear from the artist directly.