The 1960–1970s saw a new artform emerging, one that came to be central to international contemporary art — namely, installation art. The Californian art movement ‘Light and Space’, which encompasses artist such as Robert Irwin, Michael Asher, James Turrell, Doug Wheeler, Maria Nordman, Larry Bell, Eric Orr, and Bruce Nauman, developed a distinct installation type that stood out among other installations created in New York or Europe at the time. The “empty” ‘Light and Space’ installations suppose barely discernible alterations of a given room and turn the viewer’s attention to the process of his/her own perception. This practice was partly informed by the artists’ interest in Edmund Husserl’s and Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology, as well as in cognitive sciences aimed at exploring the patterns of perception.
In this paper, the characteristic traits of ‘Light and Space’ installations are traced in the works by Robert Irwin — the movement’s leader — whose oeuvre is viewed within the general installation art problematics. It is argued that ephemerality and site-specificity were the installation art traits most profoundly elaborated in ‘Light and Space’ pieces compared to other installation works by Kaprow, Arman, Broodthaers, Buren, Serra, and Kabakov. The issues of ephemerality and site-specificity are covered building on the important late essay ‘A Spherical Art’ by Celant, as well as texts by Kaprow, Kabakov, Buren, Kwon, Crimp, and Irwin himself, which helps touch on another issue crucial to the studying of installation art — that of its definition.
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