Exhibition

  • Robert Irwin: Site Determined
    Matthew Simms
    Curator
    University Art Museum, Long Beach
    Jan 27, 2018 to Apr 15, 2018
  • GRANTEE
    California State University Long Beach-University Art Museum
    GRANT YEAR
    2016

Robert Irwin, Window Wall, 1975-76. Ink, pencil, marker on paper (23 x 31 ¾ inches). Collection of the University Art Museum, California State University Long Beach. Copyright: Robert W. Irwin.

Robert Irwin is one of the most significant and prolific American artists of the postwar generation. Frequently associated with Light and Space Art, Irwin got his start in the 1950s as a Los Angeles–based abstract painter. He quickly began to question the conventions of painting—including its framing devices. Irwin then "broke the frame," turning to the ambient environment itself as his medium. He began modestly in the early 1970s with a series of subtle interventions in art galleries and museums. In 1975, however, Irwin made the crucial step outside these spaces, by engaging directly with the outdoor world. Site-determined art gets its start here, with Irwin's move beyond the traditional spaces of the art world and into the lived environment. Robert Irwin: Site Determined is the first exhibition to explore four decades of the artist's outdoor environmental projects through his drawings and architectural models.

For more than six decades, Robert Irwin has explored perception as the fundamental issue of art. Irwin, who began his career as a painter in the 1950s and became a pioneer of the Los Angeles-based “Light and Space” movement in the 1960s, has, through a continual breaking down of the frame, come to regard the role of art as “conditional”—working within and responding to the specific surrounding world of experience. Irwin has conceived over fifty-five site-conditional projects, ranging from Window Wall for California State University, Long Beach (1975), to Filigreed Line, at Wellesley College, Massachusetts (1980), 9 Spaces, 9 Trees for the Public Safety Building Plaza, Seattle (1983), Wave Hill Green, at Wave Hill, Bronx, New York (1986–87), the Central Gardens for the Getty Center in Los Angeles (1992–98), the architectural and grounds design of Dia:Beacon, New York (1999–2003), and Primal Palm Garden at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2007–10). Irwin’s most recent large-scale permanent installation, the first free-standing structure devoted exclusively to his work, at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas (2001–16), draws viewers’ attention to the subtleties of light, space, and surrounding landscape. Irwin was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1976, received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur “Genius” Award in 1984, and was elected as an Academician at the National Academy in 2012. His work has been featured in over seventy-five solo exhibitions, and is included in the collections of major public institutions worldwide. Pace Gallery has represented Irwin since 1966. (Courtesy of Pace Gallery.)

Matthew Simms is professor of art history at California State University, Long Beach. He holds a dual BA in art history and studio art from University of California, Santa Cruz; an MA in visual and cultural studies from the University of Rochester; and a PhD in art history from Harvard University. He is the author of Cézanne's Watercolors: Between Drawing and Painting (Yale University Press, 2008) and editor of Notes Toward a Conditional Art: The Writings of Robert Irwin (Getty, 2011). He recently conducted a landmark oral history interview with Irwin under the auspices of the Archives of American Art, Washington, DC (2014). Simms is also the author of the first scholarly monograph on Irwin's art and career, Robert Irwin: A Conditional Art (Yale University Press, 2016).

Sally Yard is professor of art history at the University of San Diego. She holds a BA in art history from Harvard University, as well as an MA and PhD in art and archeology from Princeton University. Yard's work on the relationship of art and its publics includes the book Christo: Oceanfront (Princeton University Press), as well as essays on Robert Irwin (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and Rizzoli, 1993), “Museum as Muse” (Museum of Modern Art, New York and Abrams, 1999), “Private Time in Public Space” (1998), “Fugitive Spaces” (2002), and “A Dynamic Equilibrium: In Pursuit of Public Terrain” (Installation Gallery, San Diego and Instituto Nacional de Bellas Arts, Mexico, 2007). She has also written on postwar painting in Francis Bacon: A Retrospective (the Trust for Museum Exhibitions and Abrams, 1999) and Willem de Kooning (Poligrafa, Barcelona, 2007).

Ed Schad's writing has been included in Art Review, Frieze, Modern Painters, Flash Art, the Brooklyn Rail, Truthdig, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. He is assistant curator and publications manager at the Broad Art Foundation in Los Angeles. He has written monograph essays on Sterling Ruby, Liat Yossifor, Charles Garabedian, Albert Contreras, Pieter Vermeersch, Kaz Oshiro, Rosson Crow, Annie Lapin, Tony Del Los Reyes, and Rebecca Farr. Schad also served as managing editor for The Broad Collection, The Broad: An Art Museum Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, The Broad: Art and Architecture, and Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life, all published by Delmonico Prestel. He holds a BA from the University of Dallas and an MA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His Blog www.icalitORANGES.com contains most of his writing.

Brian Trimble is the acting associate director of the University Art Museum (UAM) at California State University, Long Beach. He served as curator of education at the museum from 2005 to 2014, and has taught as a lecturer in both art education and liberal studies at CSULB. Trimble also serves on the Board of the Arts Council for Long Beach. His most recent projects include the exhibition Far Sighted (2015), which celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the California International Sculpture Symposium, held at CSULB in 1965, and Frank Bros.: The Store that Modernized Modern (forthcoming 2017).

Maria Coltharp, registrar and curator of the permanent collection, has been a member of the University Art Museum, CSULB staff since the summer of 2014. She coordinates UAM exhibitions and all projects associated with the museum's collection, including curating permanent collection exhibitions—most recently Far Sighted (2015) and Wayne Thiebaud: Prints in Process (2016). Prior to working at the UAM, she served as associate registrar for the Broad Art Foundation for six years; prior to that she received formal collection care training at LACMA and the Tucson Museum of Art.

The mission of the University Art Museum is to present education and exhibitions programs that blur the boundaries between visual arts and design, technology, music, and contemporary culture, providing a forum for the investigation of contemporary visual culture and transforming the traditional art museum experience, from the ordinary to the extraordinary and personal.