Transformations – Unit 1: Pt 22 White Cube & Larry Bell

During my trip to London on Sunday 11th June, I visited the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey. It was my first visit to this great building. Outside, it looks quite unassuming, but inside is a fantastic gallery space.

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My main reason for this visit was to see the work of Larry Bell (born 1939) is a contemporary American artist & sculptor. I’ve not been aware of his work before, but, when I read up on his particular style, I knew I had to see this exhibition.

This is how the gallery puts his work into context:

“Since 1968, Bell has been developing his series of freestanding glass wall sculptures in varying scales and configurations. 6 x 6 An Improvisation is the culmination of this series. First shown at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas in 2014, it consists of 40 panels, each measuring 72 x 72 inches or approximately 6ft square, a measurement relational to the artist’s own height. ”

“Bell has reconfigured the panels for White Cube Bermondsey, creating what he terms an ‘Improvisation’, combining clear glass, grey glass and glass coated with Inconel (a nickel/chrome alloy) which results in it becoming, to variable degrees, reflective.”

“Arranged in right angle pairs, some that are inverted or doubled up, the sculpture forms a labyrinthine series of spaces that reflect and refract the interior architecture of the gallery. Highly dramatic and visually complex, 6 x 6 An Improvisation subverts the viewer’s spatial comprehension through a layered convergence of hues and densities, while maintaining an illusion of volume.” (1)

Also on the White Cube website are these enlightening comments by Bell on this series of freestanding wall works:

‘In some cases, it’s highly reflective where the glass parts come together; in others it is highly reflective where the glass touches the floor, and so on. And I like the idea of being able to just combine these things so they’d stand up, since the parts were all the same size. They balance in the weight of their own vertical thrust, and are anchored to the floor with glue, and equally bound together by glue. So they hold each other up, and I could change it any way I want. So there was a lot of versatility. That gives a certain kind of symmetry to the relationship of the reflective coatings to each other. I’m trying to say that symmetry comes from the relationship of the distance between the parts being half the width of the part.’ (2)

It was quite mesmerising walking round & taking in the ever-changing reflective effects. It does take a little while to get your head round what’s unfolding in front of your eyes. I think you could spend the whole day just observing the ghosts & shadows wandering past.

These are some of the photos I took of this fantastic installation during my visit:

Also on display was a new series called ‘Church Studies’. These are densely layered collages consisting of a combination of various papers & films. These are overlaid by fencing grids & props that have undergone a coating process. This process is carried out in Bell’s vacuum thermal evaporation machine that Bell has used since the mid-60s.

What is unique about these images is that, apart from the black arches & red paper, there is no actual pigment. The colour is the result of light reflecting on the thickness of the layers, which (as explained in a short film also shown at the exhibition) is called ‘instinctive colour’. This is the same as how light is refracted when it hits oil on water. The colour is dependent on the density of the oil on the water – hence the rainbow effect.

I really did enjoy seeing this exhibition. It reminded me of my own fascination of reflected light & how it can transform the ordinary. Even the average selfie:

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  1. http://whitecube.com/exhibitions/larry_bell_bermondsey_2017/
  2. http://whitecube.com/exhibitions/larry_bell_bermondsey_2017/

 

Tasks 1, 2 & 3

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