Robert Irwin Artwork

In October 2006, Chinati presented a large temporary installation and an exhibition of drawings by Robert Irwin.

Robert Irwin, untitled (Four Walls), 2006. Special exhibition at the Chinati Foundation

Irwin was first captivated by Marfa, Texas while driving across the United States in 1971. Many years later, of the hospital project and Chinati's location on the high desert plains, he said in a 2012 interview:

"When they offered me the hospital, it was interesting to me how well those buildings work in that environment, and they were probably done by somebody who hacked them out in Washington, DC during the war — very functional, very straight-forward, low-key, but they really are amazingly right for that situation, so I fell in love with the building from the very beginning. The building was falling down, it still is – there is no roof, the floor is gone; it's in total disarray. So I looked it for a period of time, and realized that it costs more money to restore it than to rebuild it, because you have an old foundation that you would very carefully have to dig around in order to reinforce it, (...). I love the building, but the last thing I wanted to do was a New York gallery show in there. The real beauty in Marfa is that incredible landscape. When you first come to Marfa, you sort of see that it's in the middle of nowhere, flat. At that time, when I was first working on the project, in order to get something to eat you had to drive to a place called Alpine, which is sitting among rolling hills and mountains, very lovely. And at night we would go over to Fort Davis, which is at the base of a mesa, and is much more dramatic. Then we would come back to Marfa (the three towns form a triangle), and say the funniest thing — "Marfa is magical". There is something about it that is just (makes a wind blowing sound). So the idea of doing something indoors when all the beauty is outdoors, I decided I really wanted to engage the space around it. First I had color and then I eliminated the color (there's a whole set of drawings for those). (...) What actually is going to happen is there are these two long east-west corridors and a shorter north south wing. You'll enter the building where you do now, on both ends, and the first part will remain open to the sky — no roof, the way it is now, which is actually very nice. So you will experience the building in steps or stages. You enter just at the top of one of the long halls, and you will see a row of forty windows, and the idea is to use a tint, which I have used down there before, a really nice material that doesn't cost anything and has no physicality. On one side, starting with the first window, it will have just a slight strip of tint, and this one inch band will get progressively thicker until the window become completely dark. On the other side, you'll see the opposite – it will start totally dark, and become progressively lighter. So that one side of the building will go from dark to light and the other side, the reverse -- from light to dark. It's really simple. Also, because the floor fell out, standing there, the height of the window, the view, the landscape outside was like a Dutch painting, just a thin strip of land and the rest all sky. So now you're inside, but the effect of the windows is constantly changing and you're having this interplay with it. The whole time you are inside, you're dealing with the outside — the sky. I like the way it feels. It makes great sense there for me. I may put scrim down the middle to record the light, but I may not. Normally, when I do these projects, I come up with a back-up plan in case the first thing doesn't completely work. I like the fact that it can be done with just the slight adjustment to the windows."