New York – Larry Bell: “From the ’60s” at Hauser & Wirth Through April 9th, 2016

March 16th, 2016

Larry Bell, Lil' Orphan Annie (1960), via Art Observed
Larry Bell, Lil’ Orphan Annie (1960), all photos via Art Observed

Hauser & Wirth is currently presenting work by American sculpture and installation artist, Larry Bell at its Upper East Side location in New York, compiling a series of historically resonant works in conjunction with some of the artist’s recent environmental installs.  The exhibition, titled From the ’60s, sees the acclaimed artist presenting a body of work representative of his career working among the neo-avant-garde that followed in the wake of New York abstraction, and which continued to push the limits of perceptual and conceptual definitions of art.   

Larry Bell, Untitled (1962), via Art Observed
Larry Bell, Untitled (1962)

Bell’s work sat amongst a group of young artists during the turbulent decade of the 1960’s, sharing a noted interest in experimentation in concepts of space, the object, and their interrelations.  Bell’s own thinking and prolific experimentation led him to become known for his treatment of glass, applied towards illusory installations and wall-mounted works rooted in phenomenological subversion.  His art career moved from painting to works on paper to glass sculptures in various scales, site-specific installations, and even furniture design, using various media to exploit perception in relation to the context of the gallery, and the pre-existing assumptions of his audience.   Showcasing some of the more important, and rarely seen, works of his early career, From the ’60s reveals the diversity of Bell’s work and underlines his lifelong study of the perceptual effects of illusion and light.

Larry Bell, Untitled (1959), photo courtesy Hauser & Wirth
Larry Bell, Untitled (1959)

The show presents many of Bell’s early studies in space and form, plotted here in a manner that clearly reflects their evolution towards three-dimensional objects, and eventually outwards towards the outer edges of interactive space.  Bell’s early work, small canvases with geometric forms, alter the volume of the painted surface, using carefully measured, hard-edged polygonal silhouettes.  These arrangements point to a dimensional rift, a break in space through optical illusion in which painting imitated the depth and object relations of sculpture, achieving both surface interactions and depth of interaction.  It was during this time in Bell’s early career that he first encountered glass, and became fascinated by its potential to transmit, absorb, and reflect light.  Once he began to experiment with the unique characteristics of this material, he soon found himself evolving his practice into sculpture and installation, eventually branching out into arranged glass panels, like Made for Arolsen (Pink/Blue), a later work, on view here, which presents the artist’s realized conceptual pursuits.

Larry Bell, Made for Arolsen (Pink Blue) (1992 2016), via Art Observed
Larry Bell, Made for Arolsen (Pink/Blue) (1992/2016)

This exhibition succeeds in presenting Bell’s work as if it were a retrospective.  Bell’s early exploration and investigations offer a striking material history here, and the exhibition shows a strong intention towards the fruits of these investigative approaches, showing Bell’s three-dimensional forms as something of a natural conclusion.

From the 60’s is on view at Hauser & Wirth through April 9th, 2016.

Larry Bell, The Aquarium (1962-1963), via Art Observed
Larry Bell, The Aquarium (1962-1963), via Art Observed

Larry Bell, Moving Ways (1978)
Larry Bell, Moving Ways (1978)

— A. Zlotowitz

Related Links:
Larry Bell: From the Sixties [Exhibition Page]