Robert Irwin dies aged 95

27th October 2023

(USA) – Renowned artist and monumental figure in the California ‘Light and Space’ movement, Robert Irwin has passed away aged 95. Pace Gallery, who represented Irwin for many years, formally announced his departure this week.

Irwin made innovations across his artistic career that span for nearly seven decades – often expanding contours of the canon and pushing the limits of what art can be. He will leave an incredible mark on all realms of art from painting, sculpture, and light installations. His method towards art would consider him a visionary in the way he used light and space and were fundamental materials to his style.

Born in Long Beach, California in 1928 he began his career as a painter in the Los Angeles ‘Cool School’ scene of the 1960s. It was towards the end of the 60s when Irwin delved into a long-term love affair with light, space, and perception as his medium. He developed ‘conditional art’ involving installation-based works, using various media to respond to specific environments.

In 1997 Irwin unveiled ‘1° 2° 3° 4°’ for the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego marking his first permanent art installation. A decade later he created Light and Space III for the museum’s Pulliam Great Hall with a unique arrangement fluorescent light in a by semi-transparent fabric scrims. In the last decade of his career, Irwin returned to his studio working on sculptural works with fluorescent lights and acrylic – which led to his Sculpture /Configuration works in 2018 and Unlight Series in 2022– both presented by pace gallery.

The last piece of the ‘Unlight Series’, exhibited in Kraftwerk, Berlin in 2022 was featured in arc 126. It was the largest installation Irwin had displayed in Europe during his six-decade career. ‘Light and Space’ in Berlin was exhibited in a former powerplant, where the installation worked with the architecture using fluorescent tubes in rhythmic patterns. The light in turn lit the interior prompting visitors to interrogate the notion of perception itself.

Irwin’s innovations and unparalleled creativity have left an indelible influence on the both the art and lighting spheres. His work will continue to be an enduring source of inspiration for future generations as his work continue to be displayed in major galleries across the world. To delve deeper into Irwin’s ‘Light and Space’ be sure to explore the full article by following the link:

Credit: Hopper Art Trust, Date: 1962