Tibby Rothman moderated at LACMA for a full house, standing room only, discussion between Larry Bell and Robert Irwin. Ed Moses sits in the front row.
“How do I paint a painting that does not begin and end at the edge but rather starts to take in and become involved with the space or environment around it?” — Robert Irwin
Influenced by Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s 1945 treatise ‘Phenomenology of Perception,’ Irwin’s untitled disc paintings were his swan song to physical objects, a point of departure for his leap into a world of light and perception.
Installed in a 15th century Venetian palazzo, this 20th century work bridges 500 years of time while floating effortlessly in space.
Robert Irwin: “How do I paint a painting that doesn’t begin and end at the edge? In other words, I no longer felt comfortable with that sense of confinement. It no longer made sense to me. Now, I had not worked that out philosophically, I had not even begun to dig into the root question of how an orthodoxy like that becomes so deeply rooted that it becomes hidden. I mean, we ordinarily start with the canvas as a fact, as more than a fact. We start with it as a truth so deeply hidden that we don’t even question it. It’s simply there.”
“Obviously there’s a good reason for that, or it wouldn’t have lasted as long as it has. But for some reason my activities brought me up to question on what basis we assume that. Still, in the beginning it was a simple artistic challenge: How do I paint a painting that does not begin and end at an edge but rather starts to take in and become involved with the space or environment around it?” — Robert Irwin to Lawrence Weschler
Robert Irwin, music by Ken Nordine
Henry Hopkins interviews Billy Al Bengston for the Sunshine and Noir exhibition, 1999.
HH: …regarding the unique sensibilities of the artist’s who work here, it wasn’t a school. A lot of names have been applied, like “Finish / Fetish” and various other things. But Bill was his own artist, Kenny was his own artist, Irwin was his own artist. It wasn’t like you had some theoretical binding force holding you together. It was more, I thought always-
BAB: A gang, concept-
HH: Yeah, a gang concept. Billy would have a show and it was important to Irwin that he look as good or better than Billy the next time he was up on the wall. There was no question about it, that was the art hood. And if there hadn’t been the art hood, none of these guys would have stayed here, they would have gone off to New York, or someplace else. They had to have the competitive zeal to egg each other on.
Vija Celmins and Ken Price in conversation, 2007:
Vija Celmins: “As you know, in my work color sort of seeped out; I didn’t drop it with some idea of making monochrome paintings. About 1966 I began using images that were torn out of magazines and books, and I fell in love with the printed grays. Then in the next few years I began using pencil to make all my work and explored that set of silver grays… So it went.”
Ken Price: “I’ve made ocean drawings, mostly of waves, which are like cartoons of the ocean. They don’t have the kind of impact that your ocean drawings do. Your ocean drawings are heavy and mine are light.”
Vija Celmins: “In 1968 I started a series of ocean images. I lived in Venice and most evenings walked by the ocean to clear my head after the studio, and just to see far. You were a surfer, which is another ocean experience.”
Ken Price: “A high school friend and I started surfing on these big planks that were heavier than we were. And I loved it, it was the perfect sport for me, and for the next fifteen years I went surfing almost every day.
In 1953 one of the guys I met surfing together a lot and eventually shared a studio on Pier Avenue in Ocean Park from ’60 to ’62. The other artists with studios within a block away were Bob Irwin, Larry Bell, John Altoon, Neil Williams and John Chamberlain.”