This week’s object is a favorite of Tina Oldknow, Curator of Modern Glass
One of my favorite works in the contemporary collection is a 1992 wall piece by Larry Bell, titled Window Bkd #6, that was acquired by the Museum in 1994.
In the 1960s, Bell broke new ground in contemporary sculpture with his illusionistic glass boxes and large-scale glass sculptures. Living and working in southern California, he was one of a group of avant-garde artists exploring Minimalism and light and space in sculpture. His works were executed in plate glass that was made highly reflective with thin coatings of vaporized metal.
During the American Studio Glass movement’s first decade, few American artists attempted to work with glass in large scale. While Harvey Littleton, Dale Chihuly, Marvin Lipofsky and other American studio glass pioneers were learning how to blow glass and to treat it sculpturally, other artists, such as Bell, Christopher Wilmarth, and Lucas Samaras, were manipulating commercial plate glass and mirror. To studio glass artists, the work of these sculptors was important for the way in which the material was approached.
In Window Bkd #6, vaporized metals create a reflective surface that manipulates light and space. Light shifts and refracts among the particles on the vacuum-coated surface, causing the colors to iridesce from gold or silver to blue or violet. The glass is surrounded by a thick frame of black denim, which absorbs light. For Bell, the behavior of reflected and absorbed light is the subject of this work, as is the ability of the reflective layers of glass to create space.