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Robert Irwin

Dotting the i's & Crossing the t's: Part I

About Robert Irwin

For over six decades, Robert Irwin (b. 1928, Long Beach, California) has explored perception as the fundamental issue of art. Irwin, who began his career as a painter in the 1950s and became a pioneer of the “Light and Space” movement in the 1960s, has, through a continual breaking down of the frame, come to regard the role of art as “conditional”—working within and responding to the specific surrounding world of experience.

Irwin has conceived over fifty-five site-conditional projects, including the Central Gardens for the Getty Center, Los Angeles (1992–98) and the architectural and grounds design for Dia:Beacon, New York (1999–2003). His large-scale permanent installation at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas (2001–16) is the first free-standing structure devoted exclusively to his work. Irwin received the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1976, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur “Genius” Award in 1984, and was elected as an Academician at the National Academy in 2012.

Press Release

  • Robert Irwin: Dotting the i's & Crossing the t’s

    NEW YORK, August 17, 2012—Pace is honored to present the second part of Dotting the i's & Crossing the t’s, an exhibition exploring the seminal themes that have defined Irwin’s career: condition, experience, perception, and light. The two-venue show, on view at 510 West 25th Street and 32 East 57th Street from September 6 through October 20, 2012, continues a presentation of Irwin’s work that began in the spring. An opening reception will be held at 510 West 25th Street on Wednesday, September 5 from 6 to 8 p.m.

    Robert Irwin, who will celebrate his 85th birthday this September, is one of the most significant and influential artists working today. Dotting the i's & Crossing the t’s refines and crystallizes six decades of exploration of perception as the fundamental issue of art. Beginning his career as a painter in the 50s, by the early 70s, Irwin left the studio to expand the role of art from an object into something that could be experienced as perception, shadow and light.

    At 510 West 25th Street, Pace will present the artist’s iconic acrylic columns—the last works he conceived prior to abandoning his studio practice more than fifty years ago. Rising from the concrete floor and stretching more than fifteen feet towards the skylights above, the nearly transparent prisms warp the surrounding air and space. The columns are the completion and realization of an idea conceived in 1969. At the time, Irwin was restricted by the limitations of available materials, but today, more than four decades later, new materials and technology have enabled the artist to realize the works as originally conceived—as one unit without the interruption of joints, reaching the height he envisioned.

    The gallery at 32 East 57th Street will feature a site-conditioned installation that incorporates the gallery windows overlooking 57th Street. The work, which premiered in the spring, alters viewers’ orientation, blurring the line between illusion and reality. In recent years, Irwin returned to the studio, engaging with light and energy by using fluorescent tubes to create wall installations that can pass through different states, altering chromatic relationships, rhythm, and the surrounding atmosphere. An example of the artist’s light installations will also be on view.

    A 33-foot-tall acrylic column by Irwin will soon be unveiled at the San Diego Federal Courthouse, where the artist is working with his longtime friends and collaborators, architect Martin Poirer and landscape architect Andrew Spurlock, on the courthouse’s outdoor plaza. The three-story-tall acrylic column, built decades ago but never given a proper home due to a series of unforeseen circumstances, will refract light and cast colors as the sun moves through the lobby. The courthouse’s $385-million renovation is slated for completion this December.

    Irwin is also currently working on a commissioned permanent installation for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, which will be inaugurated in October. Other current projects include an environmental piece destined for permanent installation in the former army base hospital at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, and a three-story permanent light installation at Swiss Re’s corporate headquarters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which was inaugurated this summer.

    Irwin has conceived fifty-five site-conditional projects since 1975, ranging from the architectural and grounds design of Dia: Beacon Center for the Arts (completed in 2003) to the Getty’s lush Central Gardens (completed in 2005). His work has been featured in more than sixty solo exhibitions, including Primaries and Secondaries at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (2007–2008), for which he cut rectangles of glass out of the museum’s windows with his installation 1˚ 2˚ 3˚ 4˚, 1997, transforming the panoramic ocean view into a perplexing perceptual experience. In Excursus: Homage to the Square³ (1998–2000), at Dia: Chelsea, New York City, Irwin altered his initial installation, a series of chambers constructed of fine mesh scrims lit primarily by multicolored fluorescent lights (Prologue: x 18³, 1998), into an environment of color, expanding Josef Albers’s one-dimensional experiments into a three-dimensional experience.

    Robert Irwin’s work is in more than thirty public collections worldwide, including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

    Robert Irwin (b. 1928, Long Beach, California), the pioneer of the Los Angeles-based “Light and Space” movement, became the first artist to receive the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur “Genius” Award in 1984. This year, the artist was elected to the National Academy. His many accolades also include the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture (2009), an appointment to the Advisory Policy Panel for the National Endowment for the Arts (1981), and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (1976), among others. Irwin was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2007. He studied at L.A.’s Art Institutes (Otis, 1948–50; Jepson, 1951; and Chouinard, 1952–1954), and holds Honorary Doctorates from the San Francisco Art Institute (1979) and Otis-Parson's Art Institute, CA (1992). Irwin has lectured in the art, architecture, philosophy, and perceptual psychology departments of more than 150 universities and art institutes in forty-eight states and has held a number of prestigious professorships and lectureships.

    Robert Irwin lives and works in San Diego, California. He has been represented by Pace since 1966.

    For more information, please contact Sarah Goulet or Lauren Staub, 212.421.8987.