Robert Irwin’s compelling installation, Excursus: Homage to the Square3, has opened to the public at Dia Beacon, where it can be seen until 2017. First presented at Dia:Chelsea in New York between 1998 and 2000, it was inspired in part by the work of the painter Josef Albers and his experiments with color.
Irwin, a minimalist artist and one of the pioneers of the “Light and Space” movement in California in the 1960s, began his artistic career as an expressionistic painter in the ’50s. For a time he produced abstract wall pieces. He then moved on to creating interior spaces that are partly real and partly optical illusions using nothing but light and translucent nylon scrim.
Eventually, Mr. Irwin transcended traditional art altogether. His works now focus on the whole environment of a place -- the interior as well as the outdoor spaces. He was directly involved in the planning of the Dia Beacon Museum. He advised on the arrangement of gallery spaces and their vast expanses of windows that provide natural light throughout the museum.
Irwin's window treatment brings the outdoors into the galleries - photo by Carola Lott
The landscaping – the paving, the plantings, the parking area with its flowering fruit trees, as well as the design of the forecourt and entrance are entirely his. He also designed the Central Garden at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, in which he included native rocks and over 500 varieties of indigenous plants.
Irwin was responsible for the deign of the entrance - photo by Carola Lott
“Homage to the Square” consists of 16 rooms – four across by four deep – defined by walls of white translucent scrim. On each wall hangs a fluorescent light fixture divided into thirds: the top and bottom portions are a pale gray or blue while the black central features are bisected by small bands of primary colors. The tubes provide some light in the rooms but most streams in through the clerestory windows. As a result depending on the time of day and the weather the effect is constantly changing.
As Arne Glimcher, founder of the Pace Gallery and Irwin’s dealer for almost 50 years, said, “He made it clear to me that art is really a tool for the extension of perception.”
The perspective changes as you walk about - photo by Carola Lott
Although at first the installation at Dia seems simple enough, the more you look the more you find to see and think about
The doorways create infinite vistas - photo by Carola Lott
The visitor is an integral part of the piece, making it as much an experience as a work of art. Optical illusion plays an important role, for the installation has no real beginning or end. Nor is there a proper entrance. Rather the rooms have the quality of a maze, and with almost every step the perspective changes. Vistas open through the doorways leading the eye from one room to the next. Through the scrim walls one can discern fellow visitors or the omnipresent guards who appear then vanish like spectral beings.
Dia Beacon is open Thursday–Monday from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm