Throughout his long career, Robert Irwin has pondered whether we ever have an absolutely pure or direct moment in front of a work of art. This installation, last on view 20 years ago, represents his effort to foster such an experience. Part of a series of powerful—and temporary—works the artist created using oblique planes of translucent scrim fabric, it was commissioned by the Walker in 1971 as part of Works for New Spaces, the inaugural exhibition of its Edward Larrabee Barnes-designed building. The untitled piece, which Irwin’s preparatory drawings and notes refer to as Slant/Light/Volume, was last on view 20 years ago; now, its installation in the Friedman Gallery provides an opportunity for a new generation to see this pivotal work.
Irwin’s transformative pieces in the 60s and 70s helped to define the aesthetics and conceptual issues of the West Coast Light and Space movement. Along with fellow artist James Turrell, he explored how phenomena are perceived and altered by consciousness, in effect orchestrating the act of perception. His seemingly simple architectural interventions are philosophically rich exercises in the physical, sensory and temporal experience of space.