Robert Irwin is one of the founders of the Light and Space direction. Working with the flow of natural light, adding artificial light to various objects or playing with light using transparent, translucent or reflective materials, the representatives of this direction try to create certain experiences and emotions in the audience.
Robert Irwin has long and vividly inscribed his name in the history of the art world and still continues to create today, surprising with creative freedom and the power of talent. Robert was born in 1928, he began his creative career as an artist and today he is famous as the creator of world-class installations that have such a strong impact that no one remains indifferent. Let’s get to know him better.
Pushing the boundaries of art
Robert Irwin is a supporter of the theory of empiricism. One of his most famous statements:
“We know that the sky is blue, even before we understand the meaning of the word “blue” and even more so “sky”.
Experience, sensory cognition, perception – these are the main whales on which the artist built his art.
Gradually, Irwin went to the creation of installations. In the 50s, when he was still a painter, he excluded the walls around the paintings – the audience, in his opinion, should contact more closely with the works in order to have more sensations from them. Then he parted with abstract paintings and got carried away with the creation of discs from aluminum, plastic, and acrylic columns, already then starting a game with light and shadow so that it was often impossible to understand where the object began and where it ended.
But even at that time, the artist was not exploring the object itself, but mostly its presentation and placement. Work in the studio ceased to interest the master – he became carried away by space tying his works to it, erasing the border of perception between them and their environment. All his attention was focused on the perception of light, volume and scale.
Robert Irwin, as a true creator, is in constant search of new ideas
Light and space
“Light and Space” – a direction of contemporary art, which focused its attention on light, volume and scale. They represent this direction of installations, the perception of which depends on the surrounding changing conditions.
The history of the direction began with the exhibition “Transparency, Reflection, Light, Space: Four Artists”, held in 1971. One of the four was Robert Irwin. Natural light became the main character in his works – with its help he influenced the viewer, creating emotions and experiences. It was important for the artist not to convey what he feels himself, but to awaken these feelings in the viewer. In addition to light, glass, fluorescent lamps, acrylics, resins, and even veil were used for this purpose.
Robert Irwin used all these means in more than one architecture. He expanded the boundaries of space, designed gardens, was fond of landscape architecture, and even created “museum experiences” at the request of the director of the “Dia: Beacon” museum.
Robert Irwin has come a long way from an artist to an installation creator: through hardships to the stars – from simple to complex
Light of art
The works of Robert Irwin have graced various museums around the world: the Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Allen Memorial Art Museum. He was involved in the improvement of the international airport in Miami. The artist’s installation adorned one of the rooms of the San Diego Museum of Modern Art: the room overlooked the Pacific Ocean and Irwin played this feature creatively.
Many of the artist’s works are known all over the world: “Veil – black rectangle – natural light”; “All this jazz”; “Orange black painting with a blue edge and burgundy color”; “Who is afraid of red, yellow and blue”; “Piccadilly Circus”.
The works of Robert Irwin are exhibited in many museums around the world
White transparent veil, black-painted aluminum profile, white walls, a trapezoidal window overlooking Madison Avenue – with these objects the artist created the installation “Veil – Black Rectangle – Natural Light” in 1977, which was once again presented in New York in 2013. And delighted the audience just the same as 35 years ago.
Robert Irwin: installation “Veil – Black Rectangle – Natural Light”
As the master himself said, once these objects were random, but, collected in one place and located in a certain way, they affect a person, awaken one’s feelings. Perception changes depending on the intensity of light at different times of the day, from the place where the viewer is at the moment. The veil appears sometimes transparent, sometimes dull white. The room seems to be either single or divided into several others of a smaller size.
Robert Irwin used minimal funds but thought out every detail. The viewer is left to comprehend what he saw through his own experience, remaining as if alone with the outstanding work.
“My art has never been associated with ideas … My interest in art has never been associated with abstraction; it has always been associated with experience … My works were never intended for intellectual consideration as ideas but in order to be perceived through experience. “
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