Born 1939, Chicago, Illinois
Lives and works in Venice, California
Larry Bell is most commonly known for his Minimalist sculptures—transparent cubes that thrive on the interplay of shape, light, and environment— that champion the ideas of the Light and Space Movement of the 1960s. Although Bell had early success with Abstract Expressionist painting, a side job at a frame shop led him to experiment with excess scraps of glass, thus beginning his fascination with the material’s interaction with light.
About the Artist
Bell began his career in 1959 and his earliest works consisted of abstract, monochrome paintings on paper and shaped canvases whose outlines corresponded to the silhouette of a box drawn in isometric projection. Panes of glass and then mirrors were substituted for parts of the painted design and this exploration of spatial ambiguity eventually evolved into sculptural constructions made of wood and glass. These works represent the genesis of Bell’s later glass cubes and standing glass-panel wall sculptures.
From 1963 onward, Bell began exploring the passing of light through the cube sculptures, deploying a technique of vacuum deposition whereby thin films were added to the clear glass panels. Bell found that these glass cubes, presented on transparent pedestals, offered the viewer the essence of the captured light, becoming, in the process, tapestries of reflected, transmitted and absorbed light. Challenging notions of mass, volume and gravity in one single measure, the cubes appeared to float on the light between the floor and the work.
In 1978 Bell began experimenting with depositing the coatings on paper, finding in the process that the paper did not transmit light but only reflected or absorbed it. This body of work, known as ‘Vapor Drawings’, continues to this day. In the early 1980s Bell began combining different surface qualities as layers within the ‘Vapor Drawing’ oeuvre, such as Mylar and laminating film, to create the so-called ‘Mirage works’ – a mirage being an illusion which results from a combination of heat and light.
Bell’s more recent ‘Light knot’ sculptures developed from these ‘Mirage works’, eschewing their paper and laminate film and using only Mylar. These fluid works are composed of pliable, curvaceous-shaped sheets of polyester film that have been coated with metals and quartz. Highly reflective, the sheets are twisted into a knot and hung from a ceiling. Ceaselessly in motion, propelled by any slight air movement, these undulating sculptures act like a series of mirrors that reflect the viewer and their immediate spatial surroundings.
Larry Bell was born in 1939 and lives and works between Los Angeles, CA and Taos, New Mexico. He has exhibited widely, including the group exhibitions ‘Larry Bell, Robert Irwin, Doug Wheeler’, Tate Britain, London (1970); ‘11 Los Angeles Artists’, Hayward Gallery, London (1971) and ‘Phenomenal’, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (2011). Solo exhibitions include the Pasadena Art Museum, California (1972); Fort Worth Art Museum, Dallas, Texas (1975 and 1977); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1986); Denver Art Museum, Colorado (1995) Carré d’Art Musée d’art Contemporain de Nîmes, France (2011), The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas (2014), and the 2017 Whitney Biennial, New York.