New York

Robert Irwin

Mizuno Gallery

Robert Irwin is way past all that, so far past it, in fact, that for the last couple of years his artistic presence has comprised some reprised plastic shopping center obelisks and an ad-lib art-research lecture as rapid and entertaining as Ike and Tina Turner at Caesar’s Palace Lounge. The idea that the art-of-art resides in the flow of informed but spiritual thought in unprogrammed situations—as stirring, grand, and all-encompassing as it is—is wonderful, but the hairy thing about art is that these posttechnological Kahii Gibranisms need periodic fleshing out. And that, as any fool can plainly see, is a puzzler: what can Irwin do in the way of artwork to demonstrate the beauty in transcending artwork? 

He can build a white wall with a door (Portal) in a gallery which isn’t much more than that to begin with. But the goddam thing is a knockout, it really is. Mizuno’s big room is an austere box with a lovely parquet floor underfoot and two lrwin-designed skylights overhead. Irwin’s new wall runs transversely wall-to-wall, about 12' high and 8'' thick, and the centered opening is roughly 9' high by 10' wide. That the proportions are studied perfection could go unsaid; what can’t is what Irwin manages to do to this space without corrupting the existing vocabulary. He’s learned from his juniors—Asher, Orr, Nordman—and gone them a couple of steps better per economy: he adds nothing which couldn’t occur there anyway (i.e., another wall to hang more pictures on, a doorway to get to them). It’s not that the art is like architecture, the gallery, or a wall/portal—enough so to constitute just another inch toward static experience-as-art, it’s that it is that. The shades/tints of whites and grays, the crossing diagonal shadow s, the slices of space, the flashes of skylight along the walls, the sheer cleanliness of the piece, and its metamorphosis with the time of day are all stunning. Irwin’s still not a philosopher, but an artist.

Peter Plagens