Robert Irwin's Walker Installation: Were You There in 1971?
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Robert Irwin's Walker Installation: Were You There in 1971?

Installation view of Robert Irwin: Slant/Light/Volume, Friedman Gallery, August 6, 2009–November 21, 2010

Yes, this week everyone’s talking about 1969 and some sort of summer music jamboree, but we’re going to bump ahead a couple of years, into the next decade:

“The paint on the walls was barely dry when Robert Irwin was invited to conceive a piece that would ‘challenge’ the Walker’s new building, which was designed by architect Edward Larrabee Barnes. The year was 1971 and then-director Martin Friedman’s exhibition, Works for New Spaces, included such other preeminent artists of the moment as Siah Armajani, Larry Bell, Lynda Benglis, Mark di Suvero, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Robert Rauschenberg, and Richard Serra.

“Irwin’s response was one of the most unforgettable yet little-seen installations in the Walker’s history. The untitled work, presented here only twice since the opening, in 1984 and 1989, now makes its fourth appearance in these galleries.”

So wrote curator Betsy Carpenter in the July/August issue of Walker magazine, the occasion being the August 6 unveiling of Slant/Light/Volume, the new installation (seen above) of this Irwin work. Below are some fantastic images of the artist 38 years ago (we love it when librarian Barb Economon pulls these kinds of things from the archives). Come to think if it – if you can access stories from your own long-term memory files about seeing this piece back then, please share via the “Comments” box below.

Looking to the (near) future, fans of early-’70s art will want to make a mental note about the upcoming Abstract Resistance, opening February 27, 2010. Curated by Yasmil Raymond (who is sorely missed, having recently left the Walker for an amazing opportunity at the Dia Art Foundation), this show features a new installation of a large-scale piece by the aforementioned Lynda Benglis for Works for New Spaces — and like this Irwin installation, it’s a knockout.

Irwin (and an unidentified man) at work in Gallery 1 in 1971
Irwin and his completed installation in 1971


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