After six decades of artwork, Still Standing is an apropos title for Larry Bell’s newest exhibition. Except that the light and sculpture visionary is far more than standing—he is still discovering and innovating with the same enthusiasm since he first began as an artist many years ago. “I just like to make things that I am comfortable working on,” he tells CR MEN. “If they end up in special places or getting recognition, very well. It’s just gravy. But the work itself is what keeps me going.”
Beneath his signature laid-back demeanor, the artist has worked tirelessly to further his sculptural practice, first designing his famous light box cubes, then deconstructing them into “standing walls” and “glaciers.” Each edition of Bell’s work offers dramatically different art objects, and immersive optical worlds within themselves. Spanning his light-focused artworks from the 1970s to the present day, Still Standing opens this week at New York’s Hauser & Wirth gallery.
Bell has long been fascinated by the relationships between light, surface, and space. The Chicago-born artist attended the Chouinard Art Institute in LA, and quickly moved from abstract painting into works incorporating wood, mirrors, and glass—and ultimately off of canvas and into glass sculpture. Bell established himself as a forerunner of the era’s California arts scene, among contemporaries Robert Irwin, Donald Judd, and Frank Stella. He has spent the succeeding decades experimenting with infinite variations of glass structures and large-scale illusionist sculptures. Here, the visionary artist speaks with CR MEN about the magic of spontaneity in his work, the ongoing discoveries of his practice, and the importance of creating artwork on his own terms.
You have described your work as “spontaneous improvisation.” What is the importance of intuition and the unexpected in your art?
“It is the center and the soul of art. I think it’s that way for artists across the board, whether they recognize it or not. Spontaneity, improvisation, and intuition make things work; they make art function. These elements are what makes art real, and not just manufactured items of commerce.”
What are the threads that connect your early and more recent artworks?
“There is a lineage that is viable and exists. If one were to look at photos of each of the artworks over time, it would become obvious how they have developed. I have always been interested in perception and experimenting with different materials. When I started to include three-dimensional works, I had to make adjustments to factor in spontaneity. It took a while but then the flow became consistent in the sculptures. The main tool of the studio is not just spontaneity, but also trust. You have to trust yourself with what you are doing. With new styles and series, the trust always came back to me as I investigated further.”
Aside from size, are there conceptual differences between your small and large-scale works?
“Usually when I change scale, it has to do with a convenience for working. If I want to investigate many things at once, that is easier to do with smaller models. The large-scale pieces take longer to compose and sometimes the improvisation can get lost in the complexity. Larger works require more commitment to both space and time.
Years ago, I did a series of pieces called ‘Fractions,’ made from cut up two-dimensional pieces. I decided to throw them out but afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about them. So, I went back to the garbage and got them, and they became the basis for a series of 10,000 pieces that lasted for the next five years. Every one of them was amazing. I kept going with these until a friend finally reminded me that, ‘no one needs 10,000 of your works. [Laughs.]’”
What is unique about the iceberg structures being exhibited in Still Standing for the first time?
“In the ‘70s, I made a big sculpture called ‘The Iceberg and Its Shadow.’ It combines specific shapes—trapezoids, triangles, and rectangles. I called it an ‘iceberg’ because it could be put up in an infinite number of combinations. At any one time, you were only seeing part of the piece, a tip of the iceberg. It’s a metaphor because there were so many ways of assembling it. The old icebergs were distinctly different; the new series functions the same way but these pieces look very different.”
How are your “standing walls” a departure from your cubes, and why have they become their own genre within your work?
“The cubes were six square, symmetrical pieces of glass. The standing walls were series of right angles but they were not symmetrical. They each had a major and minor axis like a wall. Metaphorically, I opened up the cube. I kept working with right angles, but I wanted to expand the scale into an arena where peripheral vision was engaged. I wanted to create the feeling of being in a piece versus looking at a piece.”
After more than six decades, why has your artwork stood the test of time?
“I suspect because I never think about it, and I just keep making it. Everything changes—I change, my expertise changes, the work changes. [Cartoonist] Bob Crumb has a saying, ‘Keep on trucking.’ I don’t think a lot about the depth of work I do, I just want to keep making it.”
Larry Bell. Still Standing is now on view at Hauser & Wirth New York, 22nd Street until April 11, 2020.END
prev link: https://www.crfashionbook.com/mens/a31079510/larry-bell-artist-still-standing-exhibition-interview/
createdAt:Mon, 24 Feb 2020 17:26:48 +0000
displayType:Long Form Article