Larry Bell’s Industrialized Twist on the Light and Space Movement

Artsy Editorial
Jun 2, 2015 6:20PM

Installation view of “Larry Bell” at Peter Blake Gallery, courtesy Peter Blake Gallery.

Larry Bell’s current exhibition at Peter Blake Gallery is visual play in its purest form. Focused primarily on his materials and their potential to express aesthetic harmony, Bell creates sculptures, reliefs, and collages that are visual and tactile forms that defy classification. Strongly associated with the Los Angeles Light and Space movement, Bell had earlier been an Abstract Expressionist but eventually realized that glass, plastic, and industrial materials were a far more effective means through which which to achieve his goals. 

Cube 16, 2008
Peter Blake Gallery

In a practice that has grown in scale and scope ever since, Bell works primarily out of Taos, New Mexico, with a second studio in Venice, California, producing works that are both structured and playfully random. Using industrial plating equipment, he has developed a process through which his pliant materials take on a shimmering quality, becoming luminescent and flashing colorful streaks of light. Utilizing these reflections almost as mediums unto themselves, Bell builds works that recall shattered glass: shard-like cones create spires and arrows in sculptural works such as L.K.L. 4/5/13 (2013). 

Installation view of “Larry Bell” at Peter Blake Gallery, courtesy Peter Blake Gallery.

Many of his structures employ twists and curves to achieve subtle perceptual shifts. Pieces such as 3D VD 11/24/14 A (2014) and 3D VD 1/30/15 E (2015)—both made with polyester and film coated with aluminum and silicon monoxide, and housed in vacuum-like acrylic boxes—invite viewers to observe how their forms cut wildly into space as the viewers move through the physical environment.

Other pieces on view at Peter Blake Gallery tend toward two dimensions and rely on layering surfaces and colors more than on building up sculptural forms. In SF 5/2/12 (2012) and C.S. 11/10/14 (2014), the crumpling and slicing of various materials work back into the picture plane, rather than reaching outward as the sculptures do. Bell credits some of the recent works as being inspired by hallucinations he experienced after having a hearing disability finally corrected. In tandem with his inclination to create twisting forms, this story explains Bell’s one-of-a-kind aesthetic as being rooted in a strong understanding of vision and perception.

—K. Sundberg

Larry Bell” is on view at Peter Blake Gallery, Laguna Beach, May 9–Jun. 20, 2015.

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