‘Larry Bell: Works from the 1970s’ on show in Monaco

The striking and rare works of Larry Bell, a pioneering figure in the Light and Space movement, are currently on display at Hauser & Wirth Monaco, offering a rare glimpse into the artist’s revolutionary approach to glass and metal. Known for his innovative techniques, Bell has been a central figure in the art world since the 1960s, when he began experimenting with the interplay of light, space, and reflective surfaces.

Larry Bell’s unique process involves using a vacuum chamber that he created in his studio in Taos, New Mexico, a method influenced by NASA technology. In this chamber, he removes air to apply atomised metal to glass, creating a surface that interacts dynamically with its surroundings. This technique, which he has refined over decades, allows him to explore the properties of glass as both a transparent and reflective material.

The current exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, curated by Tanya Barson, features four exceptionally rare works: three two-panel pieces and one five-panel work. These pieces have been sourced from private collections in Rome and the prestigious Panza Collection in Italy. Typically, Bell’s early works are housed in museum collections, making this exhibition a significant opportunity for the public to experience these masterpieces.

Light and Space movement

Bell, originally based in California, was a prominent member of the Light and Space movement, often described as the West Coast’s answer to minimalism. This movement emphasised light, space, and the perception of these elements. As Tanya Barson explained to Monaco Life’s Cassandra Tanti, Bell’s work challenges viewers’ perceptions of volume and space through the use of delicate glass panels and reflective surfaces.

His early sculptures, which date back to the 1960s, often revolved around the cube form. Over time, Bell’s exploration led him to more complex geometries, including broken cubes and zigzag forms. His works, though simple in shape, offer intricate reflections and interruptions, creating a larger-than-life experience as one moves around them.

Transporting and installing these fragile glass sculptures is a nerve-wracking process, given their delicate nature. The pieces are displayed on pale-coloured carpet, acting as a subtle plinth and enhancing the viewing experience by preventing distractions from the intricate reflections and refractions of the sculptures.

His approach merges artistic creativity with scientific precision, continually pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with glass.

The exhibition at Hauser & Wirth includes a video of Bell discussing his process and the scientific principles behind his work. This insight into his meticulous and innovative methods helps viewers appreciate the depth and complexity of his art.

In addition to the glass sculptures, the exhibition features a piece titled ‘Moving Ways’, a pigment on paper work from the early 1970s. This work, velcroed to the wall for a seamless presentation, plays with optical illusions similar to op art, blending shades to create a metallic appearance and movement.

A must-see exhibition in Monaco

The exhibition in Monaco provides a unique opportunity to experience Bell’s work in a new light, quite literally. The natural light of the exhibition space, combined with the coastal environment of Monaco, mirrors the conditions in California where Bell’s journey began. This synergy between the art and its environment enhances the viewer’s experience, making this exhibition a must-see for art enthusiasts and newcomers alike.

Bell’s recent practice, including works from 2021, showcases his mastery of colour. These pieces, created by laminating coloured glass, reveal his skills as a colourist. One of these monumental pieces, titled ‘The Blue Gate’, will go on show in the Boulingrins Gardens in July.

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