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ART REVIEW : Wall-to-Wall Energy Fills Bell's Work

April 12, 1996|DAVID PAGEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Two new sculptural installations by Larry Bell are as quietly spectacular as anything the light-and-space Minimalist has made since the 1960s, when he presented his signature glass cubes as a celebration of hip, Zen emptiness, the flip side of the stereotype of Southern Californian vacuity.

Measuring 6 feet on a side, these four L-shaped walls of treated glass at Kiyo Higashi Gallery (itself designed by Bell) are also more captivating and physically engaging than any of the artist's earlier works. Part of their pleasure and much of their power resides in the games they play with your body--as well as with Bell's entire body of work.

The new pieces seem to be fragments of mazes. Walking along the short corridors and tiny rooms established by Bell's walls of semitranslucent and partially reflective glass is a disorienting experience inflected by frivolous memories of fun-house mirrors and infused with serious doubts about the nature of public space in contemporary society.

Space expands and collapses with each glance and every step as you move through Bell's glass pathways. Sometimes the surfaces make you into a vampire, peering into what seems to be a mirror but seeing only white walls and polished floorboards. At other times, the vampire is the artist, drawing everything vital from his earlier works into these stunning new pieces.

* Kiyo Higashi Gallery, 8332 Melrose Ave., (213) 655-2482, through May 4. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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