Irwin, Robert

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Irwin, Robert,

1928–, American painter and sculptor, b. Long Beach, Calif. Irwin was one of the founders of the California-based Light and Space movement. Early in his career, he painted in the abstract expressionist style, and from 1959 he was associated with the avant-garde Ferus Gallery, founded by Ed KienholzKienholz, Edward
, 1927–94, American sculptor, b. Fairfield, Wash. He moved to Los Angeles in 1953 and was a painter until the late 1950s, when he began to create sculptural reliefs of wood, found objects, and industrial paint.
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. In the 1960s he created dot paintings, then disk paintings, then experimented with minimalismminimalism,
schools of contemporary art and music, with their origins in the 1960s, that have emphasized simplicity and objectivity. Minimalism in the Visual Arts
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, installation, and sculpture before pioneering Light and Space with James TurrellTurrell, James,
1943–, American installation and land artist, b. Los Angeles, grad. Pomona College (B.A., 1965), Claremont Graduate School (M.F.A., 1973). Turrell's career began in the 1960s art scene in Los Angeles.
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 and Doug Wheeler. In 1970 he began creating what he dubbed "site-conditioned" works, in which the viewer is aware of the site of the artwork and the work's relation to the existing light and environment. Working with flourescent lights and scrims, he used a palette largely limited to white, black, and gray in the mid-1960s and 70s; color returned in the 1980s. More recently he has used vertical bulbs, some wrapped in theatrical gels, to create gorgeous color combinations. Not all of his work involves light; Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue (2006), e.g., employs floor- and ceiling-mounted aluminum sheets painted in primary colors, and he also had created installations such as the gardens at the Getty Center, Los Angeles (1997) and the Dia Art FoundationDia Art Foundation,
American foundation that supports contemporary art and artists, est. 1974 by art dealer Heiner Friedrich and his wife, art patron Philippa de Menil. The foundation, which commissions and purchases artworks, specializes in artists first recognized in the 1960s
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. The building/artwork (2016) that is part of Chinati collection of installations in Marfa, Tex., is often considered his magnum opus. In 1984 Irwin was a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship.


See his Being and Circumstance: Notes Toward a Conditional Art (1985); L. Weschler, Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees (expanded ed., 2009); studies by E. C. Hankins et al. (2016), M. Simms (2016), M. Simms et al. (2018), and M. Stockebrand et al. (2019).

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