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Robert Irwin Portrait

Robert Irwin

Long Beach, California 1928

Active in:

  • Los Angeles, California
  • San Diego, California

Photo Caption:
Courtesy Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Luce Artist Quote

“Perception is deeply tactile . . . An area of [color] has a particular denseness and weight, and how it occupies a space is as real as how you occupy that chair.” Robert Irwin quoted in Robert Irwin, ed. Russell Ferguson, 1993

Luce Artist Biography

Robert Irwin began his career as a painter. In the late 1950s he joined the Ferus group, a daring bunch of young avant-garde artists in Southern California. Irwin, influenced by the group, created abstract expressionist paintings until he realized that the “emotion” that had inspired his work was usually irrelevant six months later. He began to reduce his art to pure optical sensation, creating compositions of fields of colored dots and horizontal lines in his so-called pick-up-sticks paintings. In the late 1960s, Irwin moved away from painting and began using unobtrusive materials such as glass, scrim, tape, and lighting to change the feel of a room and to heighten the viewer’s awareness of space. Since the late 1970s, Irwin has focused on outdoor spaces but continues to use light to call attention to the act of perception.