Galerie Thomas Zander is pleased to present its first solo exhibition of light installations by renowned American Light and Spaceartist Robert Irwin. The exhibition features seven new works, in which the artist orchestrates constellations of fluorescent tubes in varying colors. The works have been conceived specifically for this exhibition and the architectural space of the gallery. Irwin explores the chromatic relation and color intervals of the tubes within the installations. Major exhibitions of Robert Irwin’s work have recently been shown at the Vienna Secession, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The light installations on view, like Portland Rose from 2013, consist of rows of vertical colored tubes, which can be switched into different modes, creating alternating color ensembles. Each work has different modes that vary in brightness and tone, alternately generating a cool, sensuous, or diaphanous light. With these works, Robert Irwin draws on his early light works of the 1970s, in which he still used light bulbs. The possibility to create a specific atmosphere has fascinated the artist until today.
Irwin’s early work of the 1950s, however, centers on gestural painting in the style of Abstract Expressionism, developing into his so called Line Paintings and Dot Paintings, followed by the Discs – plexiglass panels reflecting the daylight. The artist soon left painting behind and experimented with artistic forms, that more and more approached light art and thus immateriality. Irwin opened up his works far beyond the image frame, which only seemingly describes the limits of an artwork. He finally overcomes all conventions, when he begins to work with acrylic, glass and eventually with light as his artistic media to investigate and expand vision and the conscious perception of space. At the same time, the works point out the relativity of perception because experiencing them is always a sensory process.
In addition to light, it is above all the shadows which are important as symmetrical counterpoints in Irwin’s work. Together light and shadow function as his central creative means that are able to achieve a certain independence in the room. Their fascinating effect is always site specific and focused on the given architectural space as their frame of reference. His works also fulfill a wish for a pure color of light that exists independently of a vehicle. This radical approach of employing the traditional artistic cornerstones of light and color seems groundbreaking in Irwin’s work.
When fluorescent light began to enrich the range of artistic media in the 1960s, artists such as Dan Flavin used fluorescent tubes mostly as objects, while Robert Irwin has primarily been interested in the atmospheric effect that the light is able to create; thus the focus shifted from the material object to the energy of the artwork. This energy is also palpable in the works presented in the current exhibition. Irwin’s conviction that cognitive insight does not necessarily come closer to the truth than emotional insight becomes apparent in his light installations. In a visually saturated world, which insists on constant availability, Robert Irwin’s works decelerate the speed of everyday life, as they are dedicated to seeing as pure perception. Because the perceptive experience as a reflection of our being and environment is probably the most effective aesthetic form of assuring ourselves of our presence.