• Robert Irwin - #3 x 6' - Four Fold Robert Irwin - #3 x 6' - Four Fold

The Substance of Light

November 6th 2012 to January 2nd 2013



The Substance of Light features iconic works by four of the most  significant artists who have historically worked in light: Larry Bell,  Dan Flavin, Robert Irwin and James Turrell. The works in the  exhibition explore the contrast between artists who seek to capture  light’s spiritual and phenomenological quality with those who access light’s cultural history, from the glare of the neon sign to the glow of street lights.

In the early 1960s, while much of America and Europe was obsessed with the new wave of Pop Artists, Southern California quietly gave rise to a very different aesthetic revolution, the so-called Light and Space movement. Two artists in particular, Robert Irwin and Larry Bell, began to combine ideas from radical advances in perceptual psychology and new philosophical inquiries into the nature of human experience with the immersive abstraction that had been pioneered by artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman.

The result was a new approach to art that replaced the object with a phenomenon. Finding traditional painting and sculpture too restrictive and self-contained, this group of young artists turned to the actual “substance” that makes all art possible: light. Irwin and Bell were the first to make objects and installations that were purely designed to manipulate the light in front of or around the viewer, and it was one of Irwin’s first students, James Turrell, who sought to create artworks solely from light, giving substance and physical form to light itself.

Since those early days, artists around the world have embraced light as a medium to create a powerful art experience in the viewer. To transform this most elusive material has been the ultimate challenge for many, and when they succeed, the light, the shape and created forms dissolve the veneer of centuries of painting and sculpture to reveal the essential truth of art.


Robert Irwin

#3 x 6' - Four Fold, 

Light + Shadow + Reflection + Color

182.9 x 41.6 x 11.7 cm (72 x 16-3/8 x 4-5/8")

No. L00517



Photographed by Philip Scholz Ritterman