Pace Galleries

1° 2° 3° 4°: Four dimensions, one masterpiece

"Ingenious” is the first word that comes to mind upon encountering this magical, mystical installation by Robert Irwin, who, as it happens, received a MacArthur “Genius Grant” in 1984. The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s artist in residence, Irwin is internationally known as a master of the California Light and Space Movement and designer of the Getty Center Garden in Brentwood. He conceived this installation for the museum’s breathtaking oceanview gallery. The title, “1° 2° 3° 4°,” refers to the three dimensions — height, width, depth — plus a fourth: time. It exemplifies the movement’s illusionism through manipulated light (which changes over time) and space or depth, in this case surprisingly conveyed by real salt-air breezes wafting in from outdoors. Irwin had three rectangles cut in the gallery’s tinted windows to create actual openings, which challenge the eye as they frame details of the postcard-perfect scene. You’re first aware of the difference in color, then the breeze wafts through the lighter blue openings and, suddenly, people of all ages are delighted to discover the playful high jinks underlying a profound message: art and nature are infinitely one. “Rather than compete with this view, Irwin came up with a way to harness that beautiful vista for his perceptual purpose,” wrote MCASD director Hugh M. Davies in the book “Robert Irwin: Primaries and Secondaries” (2008), adding, “he performed an act of aesthetic jujitsu, if you will.”
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