1243 GMT May 07, 2021
"You have to drop a lot of assumptions," said Irwin, dressed in his trademark baseball cap, t-shirt and jeans, on the eve of the show opening in Washington. "I started proposing the idea that the role of an artist is not in the studio, not making things, but as a kind of an esthetician."
At 87, Irwin is resurgent, with another show featuring a luminous, gauzy maze at New York's Dia: Beacon museum and a huge installation at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas opening in July that has been 15 years in the making, Daily Mail reported.
The exhibit at Washington's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden includes 29 works created from 1958 to 1971, a period during which Irwin progressively stripped his works of references to the natural world to focus instead on creating experiences for the public.
"I don't think first, I feel first," he told AFP.
Several series of increasingly large abstract oil paintings demonstrate Irwin's step-by-step evolution from textured, expressionist strokes to straight, spaced out lines, and ultimately to fields of dots with color variations that cancel each other out and seem to disappear into the canvas.
The dot paintings from the early 1960s illustrate how the artist-philosopher came to conceive his works' value in terms of the viewer's experience, rather than as mere objects.
At first blush, the work appears to be nothing more than a white canvas.
But after standing before the painting for some time, it seems to change, as if energy were pulsing from the center of the silver white space before fading again.
"The dots become just pure energy," explained Irwin, who created the mesmerizing effect by producing a slight curve forward in the canvas, which was then covered painstakingly with small dots of color.
Before long, Irwin was focused on extending the edge of the frame, eventually taking it apart and discarding it altogether.