Fine art

Harwood plans Larry Bell tribute

Exhibition provides a glimpse into the artist's studio process

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The Harwood Museum has the largest collection of Larry Bell artworks in the world, thanks to the generosity of the artist and several of his collectors.

Bell has been living and working in Taos for 45 years. His studio in Taos allows him to have fewer distractions and a place to concentrate on making art as opposed to his other primary studio in Venice, California. Guest curator, collector and close friend Gus Foster has chosen a range of art that reflects Bell's presence in Taos for a show titled "Larry Bell: Hocus, Focus and 12," which is planned to open June 9 at the Harwood Museum of Art.

The exhibition is not presented as a survey of Bell's output, but a true tribute to him and the work he's created with an emphasis on the art he's made in Taos.

Foster provided Tempo with some insight into the planning and layout of the exhibition. The Harwood staff begins the process of installing the exhibition of Larry Bell's work Monday (May 14). Artworks will be installed and assembled under the guidance of Foster and Bell over a three-week period. Some of the work, in particular his massive glass sculptures, require patience and time to set up. Visitors to the museum during this time period can get a glimpse of the installation process as it evolves.

Upon entering the museum, the George E. Foster Jr. Gallery of Prints, Drawings and Photographs will show Bell's drawings, prints and photographs from each decade beginning with the 1970s. Art through these years includes "Vapor" drawings from the 1970s and "Mirage" work from the 1980s.

To the end of the hall, on the former "curator's wall," a set of 50 "Fractions" will be installed. These are quite different from what most people know of Bell's work. They are 10-inch square mixed media works on paper, a variety of small, richly colored jewels.

It isn't until Bell came to Taos that he began working on paper in this format. Three "Light Knots" create an entirely new language of cloudlike sculptures, and these will be hanging by the stairwell.

The centerpieces of the exhibition will be on view in the prominent Mandleman-Ribak Gallery. These are the free standing glass sculptures, "Gus' Berg" (1975) and the brand new "Venice Fog 1" (2017), both considered masterpieces.

Using materials and structure designed to manipulate luminosity, these sculptures appear to change depending on how many people are in the room with them at any given time. Foster chose to not display anything on the walls around them because an important aspect of these large scale sculptures is that the audience itself becomes an element of the work.

Foster explained that these two works, side by side, bracket Bell's career to date.

In the nearby Caroline Lee and Bob Ellis Gallery, six small-scale maquette glass sculptures will be on view. Upstairs, the Joyce and Sherman Scott Gallery will include what Foster called a "show within a show," 12 "Church Study" works on paper. Each of these are 40-by-60 inches, most of which feature a female form or the shape of the body of a classical guitar. To reflect the shapes in the studies, side by side with them are a group of a dozen 12-string guitars from the extensive personal collection of the artist.

An artist in his own right, Foster still admits to a "kid in a candy store" attitude towards working on this project. He looks around and smiles glowingly over his vision, which is about to come to fruition.

This exhibit should provide a clear picture of Bell as Foster knows him, a look inside this continued friendship of 50 years. The exhibition is an enormous endeavor and a true labor of love for both of them, according to Foster.

"For Bell, exhibitions are extensions of his studio, 'temporary spaces to learn from the work I've done,'" writes Harwood executive director Dr. Richard Tobin in an essay written for the show. "The current exhibition at the Harwood is no exception.

This is not a retrospective of a career spanning six decades. Nor is it a straight survey of 45 years in Taos, where Bell moved in 1973, set up studio and installed his vacuum tank by 1976. 'Larry Bell: Hocus, Focus and 12' is a rare, vicarious glimpse into his Taos studio, a unique look at what Bell has learned from the work he's done there."

The exhibition will be on view through Oct. 7. The Harwood Museum of Art is located at 238 Ledoux Street. For more information, call (575) 758-9826 or visit harwoodmuseum.org. Watch for additional coverage of this event in the June 7 edition of Tempo magazine.

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