Larry Bell, still ringing in an art gallery near you
May 30, 2013 by Bondo Wyszpolski
With one flourish of his pen, Peter Plagens summed him up nicely in Sunshine Muse: Art on the West Coast, 1945-1970:
“(I)t was Larry Bell who stood, in the mid-sixties, as the embodiment of the L.A. Look, both in its initial phase and as it developed.”
Living and working in Venice in the early 1960s, Bell came up through the ranks of the art world along with the likes of Robert Irwin, Ken Price, Billy Al Bengsten, Ed Ruscha, Joe Goode, Llyn Foulkes, Ed Moses and DeWain Valentine. He was among those artists who were feted and featured at such galleries as Ferus and Rolf Nelson, and who now end up in the most prestigious museums of the world.
So, it’s no small accomplishment on behalf of Arts Manhattan that Homeira Goldstein has curated an exhibition of Bell’s latest work, work so recent that most of the 17 or so pieces on view in the CreativeArtsCenter are titled after the day, month, and year (mainly mid-May, 2013) in which they were constructed.
“Light Knots” resemble Cadillac fins that have died and gone to Heaven, or maybe futuristic bats roosting in the rafters, suspended from overhead. As a series, they seem to have emerged from Bell’s previous work, his “vapor drawings” and the more recent “mirage works,” which employ thin sheets of coated film – the key words, of course, being “vapor” and “mirage,” for Bell has been intrigued by the effects of light from the beginning of his career.
Not surprisingly, he is also often grouped with artists such as James Turrell, John McCracken, Peter Alexander, Craig Kaufman, Norman Zammitt, as well as Irwin and Valentine, as part of L.A.’s Light and Space movement. In Bell’s case, he plays with the illusion of volume, and in a geometric abstractionist kind of way he came to the attention of the art public for his minimalist sculptures, these being transparent cubes or pedestals, and on up through some Turrell-like darkened but glowing rooms. Bell is an illusionist, of sorts, but also a kind of chameleon – one sees the give-and-take influences of his contemporaries in his work and vice-versa.
As the authors of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time catalogue phrased it, “Bell’s works are concerned with the physicality of looking, rather than the production of symbolic meaning.” The work that comprises “Light Knots” seems to have evolved – somewhat by accident – from two-dimensional collages made with Mylar and film, the various layers built up and laminated. He took one of these, twisted it around a little, “and it ended up being a sculpture,” he said at the opening reception.
“I like the fact that they deal with all the things that my earlier glass sculptures deal with, except that there’s no right angle – and it takes much less labor-intensity to put them together.”
As Homeira Goldstein noted in her introductory remarks last week, “‘Light Knots’ seem to float in space and revel in ambient light. They are at once ghostly yet organic, substantial yet devoid of mass, tranquil yet dynamic.”
The work on view, Bell said, “was put together in a very improvisational and spontaneous and hopefully intimate manner, and they are what they are.”
Or, as he reflected earlier, “they’re so unpretentious you don’t have to walk around them – they present themselves to you. With nearly zero weight and mass they revolve elegantly with the slightest air current and display infinite gradations of color, opacity and reflection as well as variations of form.”
These works are simple and ethereal, and they are the latest creations from an artist who keeps finding new ways to express himself.
LIGHT KNOTS, sculptural forms by LARRY BELL, is on view through June 29 at the Creative Arts Center, 1560 Manhattan Beach Blvd., MB. The exhibition also features two informative short videos by the artist’s son, Oliver Bell. Hours, Tues. and Thurs., 2 to 6; Wed., 4 to 8; and Sat., 1 to 5 p.m. (310) 798-4904 or go to .