On Saturday, July 23, 2016, from dawn to dusk, the Chinati Foundation/La Fundación Chinati will open a new large-scale artwork by Robert Irwin. Sixteen years in the planning, this long- awaited installation further elaborates Donald Judd’s vision of Chinati as a singular place for contemporary art and is the first major addition to the collection since the opening of the Dan Flavin project in 2000 and the opening of the John Wesley gallery in 2004. Irwin’s largest work to date, it represents the culmination of his decades-long investigation into the act of perception through poetic manipulation of space and light.
While Robert Irwin is recognized as one of the outstanding artists of his generation, much of his past work was created and installed on a temporary basis. His new project for Chinati is the only permanent, freestanding structure that has been conceived and designed by Irwin as a total work of art. In 1999, Irwin was invited to create a work for the site of a long-abandoned army hospital adjacent to the museum’s main campus. Over the ensuing years, Irwin developed and refined a design that was informed by the open conditions of the derelict building, the surrounding landscape, and the sky overhead. The completed work fuses indoors and outdoors, art and architecture, the past and the present, nature and the man-made, and creates an ideal complement to Chinati’s permanent collection.
Donald Judd collected and supported Robert Irwin’s art and hoped to include it at Chinati. This ambitious project realizes that goal and will also contribute to the growing reputation of Marfa, Texas as one of America’s unique cultural places.
What Irwin has contributed to Chinati is an artwork in the form of a building, with light and shadow as its primary subjects. The original building that occupied the site was a dilapidated C-shaped concrete structure, lined on all sides with a long sequence of windows that surrounded a central courtyard. It sat on a gentle slope and when Irwin first visited, the building’s floors had been removed, raising the window sills to eye level and offering what Irwin later described as a “Dutch landscape-like view” of the surrounding West Texas land and sky. He chose to cut the newly constructed building into the existing slope to retain the same physical relationship.
As visitors enter from the street, gravel-lined walkways offer an option of directions. Antechambers to the right and the left are open to the sky—referencing the historic structure’s previous ruined state. The building is formally divided in half, with one side dark, the other light. Inside, transparent scrim walls are stretched taut from floor to ceiling in black or white respectively, bisecting each long wing and capturing the always-changing natural light, appearing opaque one moment and transparent the next.
The connecting corridor has a progression of scrim walls that sequentially cross and fill the space, with an enfilade of doors for passage. The courtyard has been transformed into a garden defined by concrete paths running along Corten steel-lined raised beds with two rows of Palo Verde trees. Niches with benches flank the central planter, where Irwin has created a tableau of large basalt columns. The surrounding fields of grasses, wildflowers, mesquite, scrubs, and cactus are left in their natural state.
In 1973, Robert Irwin discussed his artistic principles in words that aptly describe his approach to this new work for Chinati:
The sculptural response draws all of its cues (reasons for being) from its surroundings. A quiet distillation of all this—while directly experiencing the site—determines all the facets of the sculptural response: aesthetic sensibility, levels and kinds of physicality, gesture, dimensions, materials, kinds and level of finish, details… whether the response should be monumental or ephemeral, aggressive or gentle, useful or useless, sculptural, architectural, or simply the planting of a tree or maybe doing nothing at all.
The inauguration of Robert Irwin’s new work for Chinati will be held on Saturday, July 23, 2016, from sunrise to sunset. The building is located at the corner of Bonnie and South Yale Street in Marfa, Texas. Everyone is invited to attend. There will be a free community-wide barbecue dinner with Mariachi music at the Arena from 6:30 until 9:00 PM, and a public talk about the development of Irwin’s work at the Crowley Theater in downtown Marfa at 3:30 PM. Selected works from The Chinati Foundation’s permanent collection will be open throughout the weekend, and there will be a sunrise viewing of Judd’s works in mill aluminum and works in concrete on Sunday morning.
The Chinati Foundation received very generous support for Robert Irwin’s permanent artwork from the Chinati Foundation Board of Trustees, Vernon and Amy Faulconer, the Lannan Foundation, the Brown Foundation, Pace Gallery, David Gilbert Booth, John P. de Neufville and John Walsh, the Still Water Foundation, Kirkpatrick Family Fund, the Sarofim Foundation, as well as additional foundations and individuals. A successful Kickstarter campaign contributed to the completion of the courtyard. A full list of funders supporting the Robert Irwin project will be included in Chinati’s annual newsletter and can be found on Chinati’s website.
Chinati will publish a fully illustrated book to document the development and execution of the work and position it within Robert Irwin’s larger oeuvre. The publication will include essays by Lynne Cooke, senior curator, special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Adrian Kohn, associate professor, Massachusetts College of Art and Design; Matthew Simms, professor of art history, California State University, Long Beach; and Marianne Stockebrand, director emerita, Chinati Foundation. The publication is supported through a generous grant from the VIA Art Fund.
Robert Irwin was born in 1928 in Long Beach, California. He attended Otis Institute and Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. Although Irwin began as an abstract painter and exhibited his work at the Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, in 1970 he began to pursue a more philosophical and critical inquiry and his work shifted away from traditional paintings and objects to focus on a new type of environmental or experience-based art Irwin called “conditional”—room-filling installations that reconfigured light and space, created in direct response to existing architectural situations.
Representative works by Robert Irwin and notable museum exhibitions include Fractured Light – Partial Scrim—Eye Level (1970–71), Museum of Modern Art, New York; Scrim Veil— Black Rectangle—Natural Light (1977), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Double Diamond (1997–98), Musée d’art contemporain, Lyon, France; Robert Irwin: Primaries and Secondaries, Museum of Cotemporary Art, San Diego, 2007; and Double Blind (2013), Secession, Vienna, Austria. A retrospective of Irwin’s work was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 1993, which traveled to the Kölnischer Kunstverein, the Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and the Museo Nacional Centre de Arte Reina Sofía. Robert Irwin designed the Central Garden at the Getty Center, Los Angeles in 1997; developed the master plan for Dia:Beacon (2003); and created a palm garden for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2010).
Permanently sited public works include: untitled (Filigreed Steel Line for Wellesley College), (1980), Wellesley, Massachusetts; Portal Park Piece (slice) (1981), Dallas, Texas; Two Running Violet V Forms (1983), the Stuart Collection at the University of California, San Diego; 9 Spaces 9 Trees (1980–83), University of Washington, Seattle; and Light and Space I I I (2008), Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana.
On view through September 5, 2016 at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., is Robert Irwin: All the Rules Will Change, and at Dia:Beacon, Irwin’s Excursus: Homage to the Square 3 remains on view through May 2017. Irwin has exhibited regularly at the Pace Gallery since 1968.
Robert Irwin has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (1984), a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (1976), the Chaloner Prize, the James D. Phalen Award (both 1954), and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation medal in architecture, University of Virginia School of Architecture (2009). He holds honorary degrees from the San Francisco Art Institute (1979) and the Otis College of Art and Design (1992). In 2007, he was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
The Chinati Foundation
The Chinati Foundation/La Fundación Chinati is a contemporary art museum based upon the ideas of its founder, Donald Judd. The specific intention of Chinati is to preserve and present to the public permanent large-scale installations by a limited number of artists, where the art, architecture, and the surrounding landscape are inextricably linked. As Judd wrote in the foundation’s first catalogue:
It takes a great deal of time and thought to install work carefully. This should not always be thrown away. Most art is fragile and some should be placed and never moved again. Somewhere a portion of contemporary art has to exist as an example of what the art and its context were meant to be. Somewhere, just as the platinum-iridium meter guarantees the tape measure, a strict measure must exist for the art of this time and place.
Chinati is located on 340 acres of land on the site of former Fort D.A. Russell in Marfa, Texas. In the mid-1970s Judd began the design and renovation of the buildings; the purchase of the property, fabrication of artworks, and their installation was supported through the patronage of the Dia Art Foundation. The Chinati Foundation opened to the public in 1986 as an independent, non-profit, publicly funded institution. The collection includes 15 outdoor concrete works and 100 works in mill aluminum by Donald Judd housed in two converted artillery sheds; 25 sculptures by John Chamberlain installed in a former warehouse in downtown Marfa; an installation by Dan Flavin occupying six former army barracks; and works by Carl Andre, Ingólfur Arnarsson, Roni Horn, Ilya Kabakov, Richard Long, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, David Rabinowitch, and John Wesley. Each artist’s work is installed in a separate building on the museum grounds.
Public tours of the collection, educational programs, artist residences, scholarly publications, special exhibitions, lectures, symposia, and performances are all vital aspects of Chinati’s mission.
Location and Contact
1 Cavalry Row, PO Box 1135, Marfa, Texas 79843,
#432 729 4362, www.chinati.org.
Hours and Admission
The museum is open every Wednesday through Sunday from 9am to 5pm with a selection of docent-led tours or self-guided viewing options available. Admission prices vary. For more information visit our website at www.chinati.org or call Visitor Services at 432-729-4362.
There will be a preview for members of the press from 8:30am to 4:30pm on Monday, July 18, 2016, and walk-through with Chinati director Jenny Moore on at 3:00pm.
For additional information, contact Jessica Lutz, Communications Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 432 729 4362.