Robert Irwin at PaceWildenstein
Art in America, September 2007.

To create a templelike stillness with massive slashes of primary color might seem impossible, yet the dominant feature of Robert Irwin's installation at PaceWildenstein's Chelsea warehouse space (formerly occupied by the Dia Art Foundation) was the spectacular quiet it engendered. Titling it Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow, and [Blue.sup.3], Irwin, who was inspired by the work of Josef Albers for his 1999 installation at Dia, used Barnett Newman's abstract geometric painting of that name (here "cubed" into three dimensions) as a jumping-off place for an architectural intervention that was as minimal as it was powerful.

Three 16-by-22-foot panels of honeycomb aircraft aluminum coated with glossy enamel, one in each of the primary colors, were suspended horizontally from the ceiling over corresponding panels on the floor below. Together they formed something like a sandwich with a big empty space in the middle that, while utterly vacant, appeared almost as defined and tangible as if Irwin had walled it off with his signature scrims. The shiny surfaces above and below were like deep pools in which reflections of visitors and the facing panels swam in saturated color. The dim lighting didn't concentrate on the piece itself, as might be expected, but instead ceiling lights washed the gallery's blank white walls, creating an effect that served only to highlight the mystery that hovered in the room's center, where the panels above and below absorbed the indirect light and reflected it back as if illuminated from within.

-Carol Diehl

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