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Larry Bell

Larry Bell

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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. From 1957 to 1959 he studied at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles as a student of Robert Irwin, Richards Ruben, Robert Chuey, and Emerson Woelffer. 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 is one of the Sgt. Pepper cutouts.

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Larry Bell (born in 1939) is a contemporary American artist and sculptor. He lives and works in Taos, New Mexico, and maintains a studio in Venice, California. From 1957 to 1959 he studied at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles as a student of Robert Irwin, Richards Ruben, Robert Chuey, and Emerson Woelffer. 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.

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 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, John McCracken, Peter Alexander, Robert Irwin and Craig Kauffman On the occasion of the Tate Gallery's exhibit Three Artists from Los Angeles: Larry Bell, Robert Irwin, Doug Wheeler, Michael Compton wrote the following to describe the effect of Bell's artwork:

"I came to (Venice Beach) in ’59 right out of art school because it was cheap", says the artist, born in Chicago in 1939. He followed friends like Billy Al Bengston, Robert Irwin, Ken Price, and Craig Kauffman to the beach. "He was the first and youngest person to crash the art scene of that era", says Edward Ruscha. The two met in the late 1950s at the Chouinard Art Institute (now part of CalArts), where Bell went from 1957-1959 with the intention of becoming a Disney animator. He found representation at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, together with Edward Ruscha, Ed Moses, Billy Al Bengston.

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. Of this transition, critic Peter Frank has observed:

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. Three of these works were included in the seminal 1966 exhibit, "Primary Structures" at the Jewish Museum in New York.

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.

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Larry Bell Artworks
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