Larry Bell is Everywhere
An artist can transform our vision. It’s something we’ve all experienced, following a great exhibit. We walk out of the show and into the street; our visual perception has been changed, or our normal mindset has been subverted. That’s what I like about art.
Sometimes, the artist’s work is so elemental, so…essential and minimal, that we see it everywhere. Such is the case with Larry Bell. After all, Bell’s true medium is reflected light. He’s also concerned with the right angle, and defies anyone to deny its importance in the built environment.
Soon after I selected and installed our first Larry Bell show in 2006, I was sitting at a small dining table, and gazing at the array of water and wine glasses. The vessels were illuminated by a raking late afternoon light from a Venice window. I saw how the light had penetrated the rich amber of the wine, and cast that pale color across the tablecloth. I saw how the reflection of one glass was captured on the surface of another. And, I saw my own reflection in the water glass. I had to thank Larry for that moment of presence and immediacy.
It never goes away. There are always moments to pause and see the reflected light in our everyday environment. If I am driving at night on a rainy street, the tail lights and streetlamps are a woozy reflection on the pavement. If I happen to glance at the wall in the gallery, I might catch a reflection of light from a car windshield, through our front doors, and onto the entry wall. Bell has often addressed these qualities of light in his work with glass—or his “Vapor Drawings”.
Or, I might be in Minneapolis, taking a tour of art museums. I happened to glance at the intriguing surface of the Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron addition to the Walker Center. I was scanning the raised surface of the perforated metal panels on the exterior. There, amid the grid of the architects’ materials, was the outline of an early Larry Bell shape: the rectangle with corners sliced off—Bell’s precursor to the Cubes.