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Monday 10.22.07

« Holiday Spirit(s) | Main | PORT in Art in America November 2007 »

Robert Irwin's Primaries and Secondaries in San Diego

Robert Irwin's Primaries and Secondaries retrospective, which opened yesterday at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art may very well be the best show of 2007. More substance than flash, each of the mature works is a pragmatically transcendent experience and everything is nearly perfectly installed, he did after all have something to do with the development of the spaces he's using. Instead of the problems even a successful retrospective often produces, it seems as if no aesthetic and ideological compromises were made and no museum hype or baggage been put in front of the art. In fact, part of the reason Irwin is so good is because his work is not merely being accommodated by MCASD. Instead, he has developed an ethical, aesthetic, philosophical and spatial rapport with the institution. This connection spans decades and it makes both he and the institution look better. It also underscores how radical Irwin is... institutions don't merely take his work into account, they evolve to establish a more meaningful sonority, which is completely different than focusing on ticket sales.

*Update Arcy Douglass has posted his in-depth review for PORT, you can also enjoy these images below:

IrwinRedYellowBlue.jpg
This latest version of Who is Afraid of Red Yellow Blue is larger than the version recently shown in at Pace Wildenstein New York.

IrwinField.jpg
Light and Space (2007) being looked over by Irwin

IrwinDisk.jpg
One of Irwin's trademark Untitled disks from 1969. Instead of the typical gallery lights, this one is illuminated naturally from the skylight above. Completely subtle, haunting and yet very present, it is simply unbelievable


This show couldn't have come at a better time because though Irwin is acknowledged as the seminal California "Light and Space" artist, influential in the development of other important artists like Ed Ruscha, James Turrell, Larry Bell, etc. it hasn't been widely noted how important his work has been to younger experiential artists like Olafur Elliason, Josiah McElhney and Erwin Redl etc. In other words, though he's arguably the world's most influential living artist he's probably still underrated. After seeing Olafur Elliason and Gordon Matta Clark in sequence after taking Irwin's show in I can't begin to stress how different the effect is. Those shows are fine but Irwin's simply gone beyond the artist as stuntman routine.

The San Diego Union Tribune's Robert Pinkus had this to say.

Here's what th NYT's had to say a few weeks ago as Irwin was still working on the show. One thing though, he's not just California's most radical artist... make that national. It certainly isn't Matthew Barney. Maybe it's because Irwin doesn't need play the hype game?

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 22, 2007 at 9:02 | Comments (0)


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