CUBE #4, 2005

Important Australian and International Fine Art + Important Indigenous Art
Melbourne
29 November 2017
34

LARRY BELL

born 1939, American
CUBE #4, 2005

amber glass coated with Inconel on a plexiglass base

51.0 x 51.0 x 51.0 cm
117.5 x 51.0 x 51.0 cm (including base)

Estimate: 
$65,000 – 85,000
Provenance

Annandale Galleries, Sydney
Private collection, Melbourne

Exhibited

LARRY BELL, Cubes and Works on Canvas, Annandale Galleries, Sydney in association with Bernard Jacobson, London, 17 May – 3 June 2006

Catalogue text

Seeming to float weightlessly atop a clear plexiglass pedestal, Larry Bell’s Cube #4, 2005 encloses and contains a series of optical ambiguities, showcasing light’s reflective, refractive and absorptive qualities. Made of coloured glass coated in a thin film of metal, the facets of Cube #4 present luscious and mercurial fields of amber hue. Bell has long delighted in manipulating the rules of physics and mechanics to demonstrate how light can create and obfuscate form, in works ranging from his earliest volumetric projections on paper to his most recent installations. A key early Minimalist sculptor, Bell was a precocious practitioner of light sculpture, creating works that considered the expanded field of sculpture, to borrow Rosalind Krauss’ term, through the reflective properties of glass. Although he is often associated with California’s Light and Space movement, along with other perceptual based artists such as James Turrell and Robert Irwin, Bell rejects this categorisation – proclaiming instead that ‘everything is light and space’.1

Bell is most well-known for his glass cubic constructions, examples of which have been extensively exhibited and collected around the world. Rising to fame in the early 1960s with boxes of mirrored and patterned glass, today he creates larger cubes coated with Inconel, a vaporised metallic alloy.2After a significant creative hiatus, Bell’s oeuvre was re-invigorated in the early 2000s, leading to the creation of this series of second-generation cubes. More sophisticated than their earlier iterations, these new constructions no longer contained metal or wooden armatures, instead featuring bevelled edges which would lend a cleaner visual transition between surfaces.

Fitting neatly within the aesthetic constructs of early Minimalist sculpture, particularly that being practiced on the West Coast of the United States, Bell’s attentiveness to surface texture was understood as a finish fetish he shared with his peers, particularly Robert Morris and Carl Andre – a technically and aesthetically refined surface from which any trace of the artist’s hand had been erased that presented the work as a manufactured product. Bell’s sculptures, however, are deeply anchored in the inherent physical properties of glass, in particular its transparency, opening up aesthetic and material possibilities that diverged from the literal and conceptual work of his New York peers. Assembled with panes of glass at once mirrored and transparent, Bell created volumes that displayed inconsistencies in their capacity to reflect and refract light – presenting a reality that is simultaneously physical and immaterial.

Like his peer James Turrell, much of Bell’s work has been understood within the framework of perceptual art. Illusion is a key part of this process, forcing a close examination and using extreme technical refinement to encourage an intimate interaction between the viewer and the work. Presenting a dichotomy between physical reality and immaterial illusion, the richness of this artistic formula has sustained over forty years of Bell’s practice and inspired a subsequent generation of process-based installation artists.

1. Interview between the artist and Alex Bacon, ‘In Conversation: Larry Bell with Alex Bacon’, The Brooklyn Rail, New York, 4 March 2016, accessed online 25 October 2017 [http://brooklynrail.org/2016/03/art/alex-bacon-with-larry-bell]
2. Inconel is an austenitic nickel-chromium based superalloy, commonly used in industrial engineering for its resistance to corrosion and high temperatures, used by Bell because of its capacity to fracture light according to its levels of oxidation and density.

LUCIE REEVES-SMITH