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Robert Irwin. Untitled. 1968

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Robert Irwin (American, born 1928)


Synthetic polymer paint on aluminum and light
Disc 60 3/8" (153.2 cm) in diameter
Credit Line:
Mrs. Sam A. Lewisohn Fund
MoMA Number:
© 2015 Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Museum of Modern Art , MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 269

This untitled work is a convex, spray-painted disk held a foot or so out from the wall by a central post. Its subtle, tactile surface modulates delicately from center to edge, and it is softly lit from four angles, creating a cloverleaf pattern of shadow. The white center of the disk can seem to lie level with the white wall, so that the eye spends time trying to understand what it sees—what is nearer and what is farther, what is solid and what is immaterial light, or even light's absence. For Irwin, the result is "this indeterminate physicality with different levels of weight and density, each on a different physical plane. It [is] very beautiful and quite confusing, everything starting and reversing."

Evading confinement by the rectangle of the conventional painting, Irwin's disks literally extend past their own boundaries—spread out into their environment, which is as much a part of them as their own substance. The idea, in part, extends the Abstract Expressionist notion of an infinite, all–encompassing, allover field, but with the qualification that for Irwin, "To be an artist is not a matter of making paintings or objects at all. What we are really dealing with is our state of consciousness and the shape of our perceptions."

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