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Larry Bell

Born in: 1939

United States

Famous artist

Translation in progress

Larry Bell (born in 1939 in Chicago, Illinois) is a contemporary American artist and sculptor. He lives and works in Taos, New Mexico, and maintains a studio in Venice, California. He is a grant recipient from, among others, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, and his artworks are found in the collections of many major cultural institutions. Bell's work has been shown at museums and in public spaces in the United States and abroad over the course of his 40-year career.

Larry Bell's art addresses the relationship between the art object and its environment through the sculptural and reflective properties of his work. Bell is often associated with Light and Space, a term used to describe a group of mostly West Coast artists whose work is primarily concerned with perceptual experience stemming from the viewer's interaction with their work. This group also includes, among others, artists James Turrell, Robert Irwin, Doug Wheeler, Maria Nordman, DeWain Valentine, and Eric Orr.

Bell's earliest pieces are paintings in the Abstract Expressionist tradition. He began incorporating fragments and shards of clear and mirrored glass into his compositions. At the same time, he began in his painting to produce angular geometric compositions that alluded to or represented three-dimensional forms. These works frequently depicted rectilinear forms with truncated corners. Next there came a series of shadow boxes or “ghost boxes", three-dimensional cases whose surfaces often featured shapes reminiscent of those in the preceding paintings.

From the shadow box pieces, Bell moved on to begin what is perhaps his most recognizable body of work, namely cube sculptures that rest on transparent pedestals. Bell first started constructing these pieces in the early '60s. The earliest examples frequently featured "the systematic use of modular internal divisions (ellipses, parallelograms, checker and hexagonal arrangements)", and used a variety of materials including formica, brass, and wood.

Bell's surfaces work both as mirrors and windows, sometimes simultaneously. In viewing the cubes, their suspension at torso height on clear pedestals designed by Bell allows the viewer to look up through them from underneath, as well as perceiving them from all four sides and from above. Bell's sculptures have the effect of reading as self-contained objects while simultaneously drawing in their surroundings and proactively changing their environment. For these reasons, the sculptures' effects depend heavily on their lighting and setting.

Bell has explored the opportunities afforded by thin film deposition along other avenues. He began creating large, freestanding glass walls that can be arranged in an infinite number of configurations. These larger installations feature panes that extend from the floor or that reach above eye level. In 1968 Bell made the following comments on the perceptual and environmental aspects of this body of work, and on the leap from the cubes to the larger configurations:

Two large bodies of work on paper, Bell's “vapor drawings" and the more recent “mirage works", are also the products of Bell's use of thin film deposition technology. The vapor drawings are created by using PET film to mask paper sheets, which are then coated. Bell describes the advantages of this process and medium:

Bell continues his work with the cube to this day; more recent ones are made only of glass and have beveled edges, as opposed to plates that sit within a metal frame. The glass is typically covered with a film that has been treated using a technique called thin film deposition of metallic particles. This process takes place in a vacuum chamber, and involves vaporizing metal alloys that then settle on the glass surface. The concentration of the coating on the glass determines the variation in its reflective properties, and Bell uses this gradation to enhance the transparent and reflective properties of the glass.

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Larry Bell, Sans titre, Print

Larry Bell

Sans titre, 1989
22 x 29.9 inch


Larry Bell, Sans titre 2, Print

Larry Bell

Sans titre 2, 1999
29.9 x 22 inch


Larry Bell, Sans titre 2, Print

Larry Bell

Sans titre 2, 1988
29.9 x 22 inch

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