Larry Bell at FLG
Back in the Fall of 2011, the gallery presented a series of exhibits that focused on artists participating in Pacific Standard Time. Now that PST shows are coming to an end (some will close this weekend), I’ve been reviewing the program that we presented. During late October and throughout the month of November, we had a survey of Larry Bell— just the early paintings and first sculptures that preceded the well-known Cubes. My intent was to complement the Crosscurrents show at the Getty Museum, and Phenomenal at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
Our show was inspired by the first two rooms of the 2011 Nimes survey of Larry Bell’s work. I wanted to show the early paintings, and the clear progression of ideas and the visual logic in Bell’s work. His work is integral to the development of the clean, clear look of Los Angeles art. Several series of paintings preceded the artist’s well-known cubes and environments of the later 1960s. These early works, from the years 1959 to 1963, show a progression from paintings influenced by Abstract Expressionism, to early shaped canvases, to Bell’s incorporation of geometric form within paintings.
Bell’s inquiry was driven by his sense that the image should relate directly to the plane of the canvas. In these early works, Bell focused on visual perception and his questions led him to eliminate distractions such as gesture and tactile layering of paint. That focus on planes and the reduction of gesture meant that the image could suggest volume.
By January, when critics had viewed the Pacific Standard Time shows, some came to the conclusion that Bell’s work was deserving of a closer look. One of those was Tyler Green, the most prominent art world blogger, who posted a lengthy article, and interviewed Larry. For a look at the whole show, we produced a video that was skillfully shot and edited by Larry’s son, Ollie: