Los Angeles

Larry Bell

Ferus Gallery

Bell, in this most recent group of glass boxes, has eliminated the seductive jewel-like elements of his previous work and focused his attention predominantly on the containment of light and the use of light as volume. The sparkling allure of the earlier work, the moving fragmentation of surrounding space accomplished by the juxtaposition of mirrored and transparent surfaces and the play of light from coatings that reflect one color and transmit another, is gone, as are the reflected variations on geometrical patterns. The poetic restructuring of space has here given way to a tougher more esoteric concern for the nature of sculptural space and the use of the light and atmosphere within and around that space. There is little that is endearing or easy in this new work.

These new pieces are all simple glass cubes of varying size, up to about two feet. Each is made of six panes of glass coated with a colored metallic material that, depending on the position of the dominant source of light, either reflects or transmits light. The six panes are held together by metal channels finished in either gold or chrome to relate comfortably to the color of the glass. What seems to be attempted in these works is to add a new element to the vocabulary of sculptural space, that is, the use of light, not as an embellishment (as in the late “Cubi” series of David Smith) or as a mechanical device (as in the work of Moholy-Nagy, Archipenko, the Constructivists, or, recently, of Dan Flavin) but as a subject inherent in the space of the sculpture and of the viewing experience. One sees in these cubes, when they become transparent, a kind of weight and solidity that is greater than when the piece appears completely closed and reflective. The interaction between the energy of light outside of the box and that which is contained or transmitted through the glass, the subtle changes between transparency when the cube seems filled with a substance like Jell-O, to the complete blocking of the surface allowing only one’s reflection to be thrown back (one is tempted at this point to cup his hands and peer inside) involves a whole new series of relationships with which sculpture must deal.

––Don Factor