This week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast features artist Larry Bell, who joins me to discuss his career as one of the foremost sculptors of the post-war period. Installations of Bell’s work in Pacific Standard Time exhibitions, including in “Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface” at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (see this week’s banner), were among the highlights of the series. PST especially revealed Bell, 72, as a key pivot between California hard-edge painting, light-and-space, and minimalism, which Bell anticipated in his sculpture of the late 1950s. Bell’s work is in the collection of virtually every major museum of modern and contemporary art.
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In our conversation Bell and I discuss:
- The specific effects he has been trying to create with his cubes and his floor-mounted pieces since the early 1960s;
- The Santa Monica studio into which Bell moved in 1959 and how his discovery of its skylight helped him transition from painting to sculpture;
- Bell’s breakthrough untitled minimal sculpture from 1959 and how it led to his next breakthrough: his cubes;
- Bell’s years in New York and how and why he purchased a machine so that he could coat his own sculptures;
- Bell’s return to Los Angeles and his transition from making cubes to floor-mounted installations;
- Little-known major works such as his room in “Spaces,” an important show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1969; and
- Bell’s largest, most ambitious and possibly greatest work, The Iceberg and Its Shadow (ca. 1977), which is in the collection of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Thanks to the efforts of fast-working media staff and archivists and registrars at MIT, MoMA, the Walker and more, I’m able to publish rarely seen images of many of these works. Click through to the jump for both some amazing pictures and for a video slideshow that Bell’s son Ollie made last year of a large Bell survey at the Carré d’Art-Musée d’art Contemporain in Nimes, France. Further special thanks to Ron Hartwig and Julie Jaskol at the Getty for helping to arrange this week’s interview and to the Archives of American Art, for making research materials available to me on late notice.
The Modern Art Notes Podcast is an independent production of Modern Art Notes Media. It is released under this Creative Commons license. For images of the works discussed on this week’s program, click through to the jump.
Larry Bell, untitled, 1959. Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
Larry Bell, Lux at the Ferus, 1961. Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
Larry Bell, Old Cotton Fields Back Home, 1962. Collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Larry Bell, untitled, 1962. Collection of the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, Calif.
Larry Bell, Little Blank Riding Hood, 1962. Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
Larry Bell, A Wisp of the Girl She Used to Be, 1963. Collection of the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, Calif.
Larry Bell, untitled, 1968. Collection of the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, Calif.
Larry Bell, Two Glass Walls — Diagonal Top, 1973. Vacuum-plated glass, 71 7/8 x 103 1/8 x 49 7/8 in. (182.6 x 261.9 x 126.7 cm); as installed. Collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington. Photo: Colin Johnson.
There are numerous photographs of Bell’s large installations from the 1970s and 1980s at his website. Click on “Constructions.”