Look at This!
Back in the early 1970s Robert Irwin built what he called “the third-largest optical instrument in the world,” a 33-foot-tall column of clear acrylic that was to be barely perceptible to the eye when it was properly installed and polished. Unfortunately, that never actually happened. The collector who commissioned it died before it was finished, and a subsequent installation—in a mall—was handled rather clumsily. It eventually went into storage. (The Los Angeles Times told that story back in 1993.)
On a gray morning early last week, the artist Robert Irwin sat at one end of the cavernous Pace gallery in Chelsea and gazed out at his latest exhibition. The only things in it are three thin, 16-foot-tall transparent acrylic columns that, under certain lighting conditions, disappear. The opening reception was set for the following evening, and he was trying to figure out how the room would look when it was dark out. Every few minutes, his iPhone rang—a Pace employee on the roof, blacking out skylights.
“These things sit on a delicate edge,” Mr. Irwin said. “When it was bright in here, it was pretty yellow, and they get blown out. These things hardly existed at all. Is that good, or is it bad?” Pause. “I don’t know.” He sounded intrigued, rather than worried.
When artist Robert Irwin arrived by accident in Marfa, Texas, in the 1970s and saw the “magical” landscape, he got rid of everything he owned and started developing what he called “a conditional art,” which is to “deal with the conditions as they’re given to you.” Mr. Irwin is one of 12 artists featured in “A Marfa Dozen,” a slide show up at Vanity Fair of people who lived, worked or exhibited in the small town.
Let’s say you’re a New Yorker in Europe right now. You’ve hit Manifesta and Documenta, plus made the requisite trips to Zurich and Basel. You’re thinking about hanging around for another week or so to relax after all that art viewing. But wait, you realize in horror: you’re going to miss seeing Robert Irwin’s show at Pace’s East 57th Street location, which ends its run on June 23!
No, you’re not.
MONDAY, APRIL 23
Screening: Bjarne Melgaard Interviews Leo Bersani, at the Kitchen
The indefatigable Norwegian painter Bjarne Melgaard recorded this interview about homosexuality and politics with cultural critic Leo Bersani for his appearance at the 2011 Venice Biennale. What starts out as a “Charlie Rose–like encounter”—to borrow John Kelsey’s description of the piece in Artforum—involves “Melgaard… making digital cocks sprout out of his and Bersani’s on-screen bodies, splattering the video with lewd, orgasmic cybergraffiti, and interrupting the conversation with lowbrow bursts of dated MTV…” And that’s just the start of it. This is the film’s U.S. debut. —Andrew Russeth
The Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street, New York, 7 p.m.