Robert Irwin’s new exhibition at Sprüth Magers, Berlin features two bodies of work: several new Unlights (Irwin’s unlit fluorescent wall works, which emit no light) and a group of acrylic sculptural configurations. The artist began working with fluorescent bulbs for the first time in the early 1990s, incorporating them into his renowned scrim installations; in the last decade, his use of fluorescent lights has evolved into standalone works. Atop these commercially available objects, Irwin wraps a layer, or layers, of colored and metallic gels, similar to those employed in theaters to give stage lights their different tonalities; like a painter, he “blends” these hues through juxtaposition, anticipating the brilliant visual effects that ensue and how our eyes perceive them. He also adds touches of black and white in the form of strips of tape running vertically along the bulbs, as well as on the sides of the light fixtures. These interventions create a feeling of depth and recession that defy the relatively flat, bas-relief nature of the objects.
Three of Irwin’s acrylic sculptural configurations from 2018 also illustrate the artist’s urge to create phenomenological experiences through subtle changes in light, color and surface. Irwin first worked with this material and form in the late 1960s and early 1970s, producing tall, transparent columns that disappeared and reappeared before viewers’ eyes as they changed position. Reminiscent of obelisks and monuments, Irwin’s columns and configurations are dedicated not to any event or cause, but rather to the perceptions of light as it travels across the room and interacts with the viewers’ senses.
Click here to explore the exhibition online.