Published by Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (2008)
A pivotal influence in contemporary art, Robert Irwin’s work investigates perception and phenomenological experience through sculptural and installation works. In the late 1960s, Irwin’s early pieces helped to define the aesthetics of the West Coast Light and Space movement. In 1970, Irwin abandoned his studio-based art and stripped away all of his conceptions about art-making, until only those two criteria truly did remain: light and space. By the 1980s, he had evolved guidelines for how a site-based art could proceed, and, in a seminal 1986 statement, he laid out approaches for “site dominant,” “site adjusted,” “site specific” or “site conditioned” art–terms that are still essential today. Robert Irwin: Primaries and Secondaries encompasses five decades of the artist’s work. Produced to accompany the largest exhibition of Irwin’s work since 1993, it includes five of his most recent installation works, four of which were created specifically for MCASD–and features a DVD documentary of the exhibition installation, plus five essays from the artist’s distinguished theoretical output.
About the Artist
Robert Irwin as an artist, theoretician, and teacher, has over the last 50 years, played a pivotal role in the development of the unique tenants of Modern Art. Through his own personal Husserlian reduction, his work became the precursor for art outside the frame and object. This includes installation art, light and space art, art in public spaces, site specific art, and what he now terms, conditional art which draws the focus to the relationship and role of the sentient being vis-à-vis the cognitive self.
Over the last 50 years Irwin has produced some extraordinary exhibitions and projects including: “Fractured Light – Partial Scrim – Eye Level” Museum of Modern Art, New York (1970-1971); “Black Line Room Division + Extended Forms” Whitney Museum, New York (1977); “48 Shadow Planes” Old Post Office, Washington DC (1983); “9 Spaces, 9 Trees” Seattle, Washington (1983); “Two Running Violet V Forms” Stuart Collection UCSD, California (1983); “Ascending” Musee d’ Art Moderne deVille Paris, France (1994); “Arts Enrichment Master Plan: Miami International Airport” Miami, Florida (1988); “Double Diamond” Musée d’Art Contemporain, Lyon, France (1997-1998); “1º 2º 3º 4º” Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (1997); “Exercises” Dia Center for the Arts, New York, “The Central Garden” J Paul Getty, Los Angeles (1998); “Architecture and Grounds” Dia Beacon, New York (2003); and “Primaries and Secondaries” Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (2007-2008).
Irwin has received the Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1976), The MacArthur Fellowship (1984), and The Thomas Jefferson Medal for Architecture (2009). He also has been awarded a number of honorary professorships and doctorates. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.