Larry Bell: 2D-3D: Glass and Vapor

Art Free
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Usually, when a show includes works on paper, you can pretty much guess the sort of thing you’re going to get: small pieces which serve as an adjunct to the main body of work, not necessarily uninteresting, but almost certainly less consequential. But that’s not at what you get with Larry Bell’s recent examples. The first things you see when you enter this show, these pieces are large, darkly sumptuous, subtly imposing – a logical extension of the Californian artist’s decades-long involvement with the ‘Light and Space’ movement, and the next step in his ‘film deposition’ process whereby thin layers of metals are vacuum-plated on to surfaces to create various iridescences. Here, applied to black paper, the crisply swirling patterns give off a shadowy rainbow shimmer, vaguely reminiscent of tendrils of smoke – an association which is emphasised by the small plastic sculptures also dotted about, their transparent forms complicatedly looping and wreathing about themselves.

In the basement galleries, the focus is on earlier works incorporating glass – the material with which the septuagenarian Bell is probably most associated. Processes of refraction and reflection come into play, the prismatic colours overlapping strangely with shadows in the case of his thin, nickel chrome-plated shelves from the 1960s, or spilling upwards on to the wall in a large corner-piece from the ’80s.

The biggest work consists of four of Bell’s trademark, L-shaped walls made of glass, their shifting transparencies and reflectivities creating a disorientating, blurring, hazy effect as you walk around the interlocking arrangement. It’s disappointing, then, that the gallery doesn’t also let you walk between the walls as you’re meant to. Sure, the piece has to be protected from possible damage but this strict no-access policy seems rather, well, unenlightened.

Gabriel Coxhead

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