Robert Irwin Artwork

For the past fourteen years, Robert Irwin - now in his 80's - has been developing a major new work for the Chinati Foundation's permanent collection.

Widely recognized as one of the greatest and most influential living American artists, Robert Irwin shapes light, shadow, and space into ephemeral and powerful works of art.

The vast landscape of West Texas and the extraordinary skies with shifting sun and shadow over the high desert plains provided inspiration and serve as an ideal setting for Irwin's work.

Description of the Work

Irwin's design features his expressive shaping of light, shadow, material, and space. Visitors will experience the building in "halves," with one side dark and the other light. This will be accomplished through a number of subtle interventions: the long sequence of windows that define the architecture will be treated with a grey tinting material, allowing more or less light into the space in a cross-diametric, gradating sequence, from light/dark/light on one side, and from dark/light/dark on the opposite wing of the building; the concrete and plaster walls and floors will be tinted dark on one side and left natural (lighter) on the other side; and long transparent scrim walls (one black and one white) will bisect each wing to further capture the incoming and always changing natural light.

In the connecting corridor, a sequence of scrim walls, in black and white with door-like openings, will draw visitors through the enfilade to experience the other half of the building. The current recessed level of the floor will be maintained (the original floor was removed long ago), which, in turn, will raise the position of the windows to eye level, offering what Irwin refers to as a Dutch landscape-like view of the surrounding West Texas fields and sky. Upon entering the building from the street, the first chambers on the left and right (you can start from either direction) will be completely open to the sky, thus emphasizing stages of enclosure in the visitor's experience of the work.

Irwin has worked with gardens, planting, and the landscape for over thirty years, and the integration of the inside with the outside at the hospital will be further shaped through his treatment of the building's large inner courtyard. Where a small infirmary once stood, Irwin has designed a large, Cor-ten steel lined, raised planter where a grove of Palo Verde trees will provide shade and visual texture. The fields of wild grasses, mesquite, and cactus surrounding the building will be left in their natural state..

Architectural Plans