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Introduction to Larry Bell: New Work
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Introduction to Larry Bell:
New Work

Thankfully, there is no simple qualification to make of Larry Bell's genius as an artist, nor of his work. There is no static information in the latter, for example, a single thing simply to be seen and, by that act, understood. This art particularly provokes a daily, persistent accommodation of interest, much as a changing sky or river will. There is no one thing it factually is.

The artist is also a variable, both in and of himself. There is a very deliberate intelligence present in the fabrication of the standing glass pieces, a remarkable technical mastery, because a thumb print's smudge, at this stage of the work, can fracture the authority of surface. There is also a brilliant intuition of possibility, which can see the work long before its actual existence. There is, finally, the complex of feelings and relationships, of which the work is product.

Or best put as he does, speaking of the vapour drawings: " . . . these images represent very strong personal feelings. Not anguish, pain or joy but daily mundane drama. The stuff that reality is made of: ambition, personal prejudice, short sightedness, far sightedness, the desire to do something different, most of all they contain my efforts to overcome strict technical discipline, to become spontaneous, intuitive, improvisational and casual in my approach to the visual things that keep me going . . ."

His initial commitment to glass as a material had particularly to do with its surface and the fact that, as he says, "by simply laying thin films of different kinds of metallic and non-metallic com-

Larry Bell: New Work (Yonkers, N.Y.: Hudson River Museum, 1980).


pounds onto the surface of the glass, I could change the way the light was reflected and transmitted through the thing . . ." He thought of himself as a sculptor, working with "mass and weight and things that sat on the floor . . ." Preparation might require six months of setting up before anything could actually begin.

The point is that his means of working and the material he has chosen demand of him a singular range of information and skill. Otherwise one would be talking of simple impediments, however interesting. For example, finding that commercial treatment of his pieces is increasingly impractical, he spends a year finding a firm to build the equipment he needs, which in turn takes a year to construct it, and then he takes another year in order to learn how to use it. One thinks of Pound's quoting Brancusi: "All my sculptures take fifteen years . . ." It is a rare and practical definition of responsibility in either case.

Paradoxically, he will say, "At first I wasn't interested in light as a medium, it only came to me after working for a long time on things that I realized—I thought I was working on glass, I thought I was working with structure and stuff like that—it wasn't until I had worked for a long time that I realized that I was actually working with light . . ." In his uniquely subtle registrations of its ambience, and with the power of his own determination to respect both it and himself, he brings light to all.

Buffalo, New York
October 27, 1980


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Introduction to Larry Bell: New Work
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