Larry Bell (b. 1939, Chicago, Illinois) is an essential figure in American art of the last half century. Born in Chicago in 1939, Bell ventured west to study art at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. In 1959, he moved to nearby Venice Beach. Bell spent much of the early ’60s experimenting with painting and Abstract Expressionism. His geometric paintings of the period soon incorporated glass as well as what would become his lifelong interests in spatiality and dimension. In 1963, switching his focus to sculpture, Bell created the first versions of his iconic glass cube. Following a brief stint in New York, Bell was back in Southern California in the mid-’60s constructing his cubes with translucent, vacuum-coated glass and chrome frames. After acquiring a considerable amount of machinery, he was able to further experiment with color, scale, and opacity, eventually forgoing the frames and creating monolithic freestanding plates of glass that deepened his exploration of color, perception, and spatiality. Southern California during this time was home to a loose fraternity of likeminded artists—James Turrell, Peter Alexander, and Robert Irwin, one of Bell’s art school professors, among them—and Bell’s glass cubes helped signify their new brand of Minimalism and what became known as California’s Light and Space movement. With his international reputation on the rise, the 1970s saw Bell move to Taos, New Mexico, where he still lives and works, as he extended his artistic vision to large-scale glassworks. Using a variety of new materials such as film and Mylar, he went on to create a flat-planed series of “Vapor Drawings” and collage-like “Mirage Paintings,” which explore similar ideas in two dimensions.
A grantee of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, Bell has held solo exhibitions in major galleries all over the world. His work can be found in numerous public collections, including Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; and Tate Gallery, London, United Kingdom.