robert irwin, pioneer of the light and space movement, passes away at 95

robert irwin, pioneer of the light and space movement, passes away at 95

art 199 shares connections: +100

Robert Irwin dies aged 95

 

Renowned American installation artist Robert Irwin, a prominent figure in the California Light and Space movement, has died at the age of 95. His passing was formally announced by Pace Gallery which had represented him for many years. Irwin’s artistic journey spanned nearly seven decades and encompassed significant contributions to painting, sculpture, and installation art. His creations, which harnessed light and space as fundamental elements, earned him a reputation as a visionary leader at the forefront of what we now recognize as experiential art. In his early works, Irwin reshaped gallery and museum spaces using light and translucent scrims, setting the stage for a new era in artistic expression. From 1975 until his passing, he expanded his creative horizons to encompass landscape projects, crafting over fifty-five site-specific installations at renowned institutions, including the Getty Center, Dia:Beacon, and the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. Irwin’s influence extended to numerous exhibitions and shows, notably his collaboration with James Turrell in Aisthesis – The Origin of Sensations, and his participation in the WHAT’S UP/TWENTY TWENTY digital exhibition.

robert irwin, pioneer of the light and space movement, passes away at 95
Robert Irwin, Light and Space II (2), 2008, fluorescent lamps and painted wall, installation dimensions variable, 24″ (61 cm), 61 fluorescent lamps 48″ (121.9 cm), 4 fluorescent lamps | image © 2022 Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

the legacy of robert irwin (1928-2023)

 

Robert Irwin, represented by Pace Gallery (find more here) was born in Long Beach, California in 1928, and began his artistic career as a painter in the Los Angeles ‘cool school’ scene. He initially exhibited his work in 1957 at the Felix Landau Gallery. In the early 1960s, his art evolved to include restrained line paintings and dot paintings that featured small, nearly complementary dots on gently bowed supports. In 1966, Irwin ventured into creating curved aluminum and acrylic discs that extended from walls, casting elegant geometric shadows. He abandoned traditional art-making methods in 1969 and delved into a multi-decade exploration of light, space, and perception. He developed ‘conditional art’ involving installation-based and architectural works, using various media to respond to specific environments.

Notable among his permanent installations is 1° 2° 3° 4° at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in 1997. In 2008, he created Light and Space III for the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Pulliam Great Hall. He also designed landscapes, including the Central Gardens at the J. Paul Getty Center in 1997, a master plan for Dia:Beacon in 2003, and a palm garden at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2016. In 2016, Irwin unveiled his most ambitious project, ‘untitled (dawn to dusk),’ in Marfa, Texas, a monumental architectural intervention that responded to the West Texas landscape and sky. Over the past decade, he returned to his studio to experiment with fluorescent lights and acrylic, showcasing works like the Sculpture/Configuration series in 2018 and the Unlight series in 2020 and 2022, all while continuing to develop site-conditioned installations.

robert irwin, pioneer of the light and space movement, passes away at 95
Robert Irwin, Light and Space (Kraftwerk Berlin), 2021. commissioned by LAS (Light Art Space) | image by Timo Ohler. VG Bild-Kunst, 2021 | image © 2021 Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

robert irwin, pioneer of the light and space movement, passes away at 95
Robert Irwin, Multiple Configurations #1, 2018, acrylic, 9′ 11″ × 8′ 5″ × 32″ (302.3 cm × 256.5 cm × 81.3 cm) © 2022 Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (head image: Robert Irwin, South South West, 2014-2015, Light + Shadow + Reflection + Color, 72″ x 172-1/4″ x 4-5/8″ (182.9 cm x 437.5 cm x 11.7 cm) | image © 2022 Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

robert irwin, pioneer of the light and space movement, passes away at 95
Robert Irwin, Greek Speak, 2021. Sculpture. Shadow + Reflection + Color. 6′ × 12′ 5-1/4″ × 4-1/4″ (182.9 cm × 379.1 cm × 10.8 cm) | image © Pace Gallery

robert irwin, pioneer of the light and space movement, passes away at 95
Robert Irwin, Untitled, 1966-67. Painting. Sprayed acrylic lacquer on shaped aluminum. 60″ diameter (152.4 cm) | image © Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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installation view, Robert Irwin and Mary Corse: Parallax, October 10 – November 11, 2023, Pace Gallery, London | image © Robert Irwin

robert irwin, pioneer of the light and space movement, passes away at 95
Robert Irwin, #3 x 6′ – Four Fold, 2011. Sculpture. Light + Shadow + Reflection + Color. 72″ x 16-5/16″ x 4-5/8″ (182.9 cm x 41.4 cm x 11.7 cm) © Pace Gallery.Robert Irwin, #3 x 6′ – Four Fold, 2011. Sculpture. Light + Shadow + Reflection + Color. 72″ x 16-5/16″ x 4-5/8″ (182.9 cm x 41.4 cm x 11.7 cm) | image © Pace Gallery

robert irwin, pioneer of the light and space movement, passes away at 95
Robert Irwin, untitled (dawn to dusk), 2016. Permanent collection, The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas. Photo by Alex Marks, courtesy of The Chinati Foundation | image © 2023 Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Central Garden designed by Robert Irwin | image by Jim Duggan © 2006 J. Paul Getty Trust

robert irwin, pioneer of the light and space movement, passes away at 95
Robert Irwin, Untitled (Acrylic Column), 1969-2011, acrylic, 15′ 6-1/2″ x 9″ x 3-1/2″ (473.7 cm x 22.9 cm x 8.9 cm) © 2022 Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

robert irwin, pioneer of the light and space movement, passes away at 95
Robert Irwin, Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow & Blue³ III, 2013, lacquer and polyurethane paint on six honeycomb aluminium panels, overall dimensions variable, six panels, each 4 x 1096.2 x 366 cm (1 5/8″ x 36′ x 12′) © 2022 Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

robert irwin, pioneer of the light and space movement, passes away at 95
portrait of Robert Irwin | image courtesy of Pace Gallery

 

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