Larry Bell

  • John Chamberlain, Hano, 1970, mineral-coated polymer resin, 30 x 37 x 34".


    SOMETIMES SPIKY AND ANGULAR, sometimes almost molten in their suppleness, the junked-car sculptures of JOHN CHAMBERLAIN are among the most iconic artworks of the postwar period. Yet automobiles were not the only vehicles of Chamberlain’s career-long exploration of color and volume, surface and structure: The artist, who died on December 21, 2011, at the age of eighty-four, wrested the same remarkable pliability from paper, Plexiglas, and foam as from steel plates and shards. As the survey “John Chamberlain: Choices,” curated by Susan Davidson and recently opened at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, demonstrates, Chamberlain deployed all of these materials with an exuberance, acuity, and openness to sculpture’s social valences that was to influence generations of artists. Here, curator LYNNE COOKE and artist LARRY BELL pay tribute to Chamberlain and his extraordinarily elastic oeuvre.


    LATE LAST DECEMBER, halfway through the Museum of Modern Art’s de Kooning retrospective, John Chamberlain’s sculpture irresistibly sprang to mind—as if the Dutchman’s extraordinary mid-’50s abstractions (Interchanged, 1955; Gotham News, 1955; The Time of the Fire, 1956) had conjured their three-dimensional counterparts made from the remnants of crushed automobiles. Perhaps no other artist took on de Kooning’s legacy more convincingly and more fluently than Chamberlain. Composed from the hoods and bumpers, fenders and fins, of junked car bodies, Chamberlain’s vividly hued abstractions

  • Eleanor Antin, 100 BOOTS Move On, 1972, black-and-white photograph, 8 x 10". From the series “100 BOOTS,” 1971–73.



    David and I arrived in Solana Beach, a coastal town north of San Diego, after driving cross-country from New York in an old beat-up Caddy with our one-year-old son, Blaise. Robert Kennedy was dying of gunshot wounds in an LA hospital after winning the California primary, and it was twenty-four hours after Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol back in New York. A hot sunny day in June 1968, and there were huge juicy oranges in the back garden. A year later Manson and company went on their rampage in the Hollywood Hills, and the Hells Angels went on theirs at Altamont a couple of months

  • Larry Bell

    I MET GUY sometime around 1965 or 1966 through a woman named Susan Hoffman—aka Viva, who was one of Andy’s actresses. I was dating her sister, and one day she introduced Guy to me; he had just arrived in New York and needed a job. He spoke practically no English, but I liked him so gave it a shot. He worked in my studio for some seven years. Socially during that period, however, he said about seven words to me. He was a very mysterious person. But I learned a little bit over time. I saw his drawings, ciphers, and stick sculptures. I noticed that he would sometimes shoot videos from the window


    MATERIAL, SPACE, AND COLOR are the main aspects of visual art. Everyone knows that there is material that can be picked up and sold, but no one sees space and color. Two of the main aspects of art are invisible; the basic nature of art is invisible. The integrity of visual art is not seen. The unseen nature and integrity of art, the development of its aspects, the irreducibility of thought, can be replaced by falsifications, and by verbiage about the material, itself in reality unseen. The discussion of science is scientific; the discussion of art is superstitious. There is no history.

    There has

  • Larry Bell

    I MET DONALD JUDD in 1965. I was in New York for my first show at the Pace Gallery, Barbara Rose and Frank Stella had a party, and Donald was there. I knew of his work through magazines; not much of it had been seen on the West Coast at that time. I liked the guy straight away. He was the most amusingly odd person I had ever met.

    His interest in my work was very flattering and he was the first artist ever to buy a piece from me. He paid it out over a couple of years—the figure wasn’t very much but no one had any money in those days. With the final payment came a terse note: “That’s It.” Donald