Larry Bell - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, November 11, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Marlborough Gallery, Rome

  • Exhibited

    Pasadena Art Museum, Larry Bell, April 11 - June 11, 1972; Rome, Marlborough Gallery, Larry Bell, June - August 1974

  • Literature

    Marlborough Gallery, ed., Larry Bell, Rome, 1974, pl. 13 (illustrated); S. Montealegre, Transparente: Larry Bell, Teodosio Magnoni, Samuel Montealegre, Bolsena, 1990, p. 20 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Larry Bell first became interested in glass while working at a frame shop as a student. During his free time there he would create assemblages out of the discarded glass and shadowboxes. “I liked using the glass in those little constructions I had done in my picture framing job. As I became more involved with the use of the material in these constructions, I realized that the surface quality was different from anything else I had been familiar with. The surface was hard, reflective, transparent, and it was possible to make it all of those things at one time… And the fact that mirrors could contain the depth of whatever they reflected was something that was intriguing, although I wasn’t quite clear about what that meant. But the surface qualities of the glass seemed full of potential for me to use,” (Larry Bell from, Larry Bell: works from New Mexico, Lyon, 1989, p. 16).
    From his experiments with glass at the shop, Bell’s work developed towards his signature cubes. “I had been painting pictures of cubes, so I decided to make one. I got the glass, coated it, and assembled the first cube. I stood and looked at it, and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my whole life,” (Zones of Experience: the Art of Larry Bell, Albequerque, 1997, p. 23). Though his cubes were a great success, Bell was not satisfied to stop there and sought ways to expand on his vision. He moved from the simpler cubes of the sixties to more open and evolving structures such as the present lot. The artist explains this shift:
    "The most interesting thing about the cubes for me was where the corners came together, and the way the color faded from the corners to the center of the glass in each piece. So I sat there, day after day, just looking at the work, trying to figure out the next step, I realized how completely my interest had come to be how the colors met at the corners. It was only natural that I get rid of the cube format and just make big corners. The simpler constructions made it possible to make them larger. I could make them big enough to include my peripheral vision,"  (Ibid, Lyon, 1989, p. 16).
    This desire to purify his sculptures to their most interesting point led to the creation of the present lot. Comprised of two panes of coated glass, the form opens up from a single intersection as if to invite the viewer inside what was once closed off as a cube. This deceptively simplified form provides elaborate interplays of planar interface. Viewed from one angle the sculpture’s structure is clear, but with a slight move the planes reflect off of each other and it is unclear how many panes of glass you are looking at, what is reflection and what is reality. Larry Bell achieves this amazing mix of luminosity and reflection by coating the planes of glass himself with delicately modulated mists of metal. The artist discovered this process in a New York factory and had a machine built so he could reproduce the effect himself in his studio. The coating allows reflected and refracted light to change the color of the glass depending on the light source and vantage point. As viewers move around the work the hue shifts, changes intensity and even disappears completely. The artist compares the color achieved to the illusory color observed when gasoline floats on a puddle of water. However humble this comparison, the look of Bell’s coated glass planes is brilliant and subtle. Each plane is dream-like, reflective yet also transparent. The elegant form in concert with light resonates with transcendent beauty and inspires the viewer to explore the limits of perception. “Larry Bell’s work may appear rational and conceptual, and although mathematics appear to determine the form of his structures, his is no less an art of emotion. Light is no longer used to dramatize, but rather to define the experience,” (S. Afif, “Larry Bell: Through the Looking Glass,” Larry Bell: works from New Mexico, Lyon, 1989, p. 22).




Two plate glass panels coated with Inconel.

69 3/4 x 67 1/4 x 69 1/4 in. (177.2 x 170.8 x 175.9 cm) installed dimensions.

$150,000 - 200,000 

Contemporary Art Part I

12 Nov 2009
New York