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Thursday 04.10.08

« Installations of Note | Main | Arts Building in Portland? »

A comprehensive Robert Irwin retrospective at MOCA and MOMA? it's about time

Light and Space (2007) being looked over for the first time by Robert Irwin at MCASD

Tyler Green and Jen Graves are still talking about Robert Irwin's awesome Primaries and Secondaries retrospective at MCASD last year. I called it the best show of the year and the fact that people are still pouring over it is a good indication of why. Simply meeting Irwin and hanging out with him as he finished a piece for the first time was pretty much life altering (something Irwin probably does with astonishing regularity)... leading me consider things like non hierarchical fields and the experience of space in a different way on a very personal level. The fact that he turned to Arcy and I and asked what we thought was also extremely informative. Irwin is the brightest human being come across to date... hands down. I've met at least 6 other MacArthur or Nobel Prize winners + a couple of impressive astrophysicists and Irwin stands out.

I bring all this up because there is a ridiculous pejorative that follows Irwin around like this quote from the New York Times calling him, "California's most radical light and space artist." I agree that he's the most radical (Turrell has become too quasi religious and too close to spa-like experiences as of late) but his contributions go far beyond that California centered movement. He's probably the most influential artist alive today. Without him you don't have Eliasson or other "phenomenological experience" based work. This begs the question, where is Irwin's comprehensive retrospective at MoMA, Whitney, MOCA, MCA or the Walker? Can you imagine 30-50 of his very subtle disks displayed in relation to one another? I can (the Portland Art Museum has a nice one even).

I think a major retrospective would end the ghettoization of Irwin as purely an influential feature of West Coast culture. Truly, I doubt his importance is questioned on a global scale but it needs better acknowledgment. I also think it can only be done properly with his input so lets say some museum in LA, New York or Chicago finally steps up to plate eh?

Posted by Jeff Jahn on April 10, 2008 at 14:37 | Comments (1)


Hell, it was about time ten years ago. He has been a huge influence on my work, and I have been working on some ballpoint drawings that are directly referencing his discs.

His work doesn't suffer from the warm, fuzzy Manifest Destiny Romanticism often associated with West Coast artists of his era.

I would certainly be making the trip to MOMA for a retrospective.

After the Turrell lecture at PNCA you stated that Turrell was getting a little too "new agey." I still love the guy, but I couldn't agree more. Perhaps it is time for Irwin to take his place in the sun (no pun intended).

Posted by: Calvin Ross Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2008 05:18 PM

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