REVIEWS ON SIGHT: THE HIRSHHORN’S SUPERB ROBERT IRWIN RETROSPECTIVE SHEDS NEW LIGHT ON HIS EARLY CAREER
It’s nearly impossible to mount a career retrospective of the art of Robert Irwin. For starters, Irwin gave up painting in 1970. He became what Carl Andre long ago termed a post-studio artist or, as the 87-year-old former Angeleno has said about himself, someone who pursues “project[s] of general peripatetic availability.”
Instead of executing portable art, Irwin, for several decades, has been a maker of installations. Many of these have been ephemeral, and call attention to such immaterial properties as light and time. Curators can’t organize comprehensive shows with things that don’t exist or are site-specific. While Irwin has constructed some works that are permanent, you can’t borrow the Getty’s gardens in L.A. or the layout of the galleries in the former Nabisco factory near New York that houses Dia Beacon, which both are based on designs by Irwin.
As it is, Irwin was never a prolific painter. He made few examples of a limited number of series. It’s these works that have made “Robert Irwin: All the Rules Will Change” a must-see show at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, if you haven’t gotten there yet, time is running out. Closing September 5, this spare, elegant survey of Irwin’s art from 1958 to 1970 has earned a place on the short list of exhibitions that make it impossible ever to view a certain artist the same way again. via ArtNews