ELIN 71, 1982, Larry Bell (American, born 1939)

Larry Bell (American, born 1939)

ELIN 71, 1982

Vapor drawing

Gift of The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, 2011, and gift of Laila Twigg-Smith (TCM.1997.75.1)


Larry Bell, along with DeWain Valentine, whose Double Pyramid sculpture is also on view nearby, was one of the artists who were part of the Light and Space movement which emerged in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Working with materials and forms which interacted with natural and artificial light in various ways, these artists explored ideas and issues of perception.

Bell’s early works were constructed of etched and mirrored glass panes in wall-reliefs and free-standing sculptures. His innovations with glass included coating its surface with thin metal films to control the way light was reflected by/transmitted through it. Bell utilized a plating technique used commercially for optics and other hi-tech applications at the time.

Bell began his vapor drawings in 1978 applying the coating process he used on glass to paper. Bell discovered that paper captured absorbed light (in contrast to reflected/transmitted light in glass). The paper was prepared with thin Mylar strips to expose the negative areas of the shape that was to be rendered. ELIN 71 is a drawing made of paper coated with a vaporous gradation of color emanating from the top. The title is an acronym derived from “Ellipse Insert” and the number of the drawing in the series. The ellipse shape is one which Bell has used freely and has said, “I was first attracted to the ellipse by the symmetry and beauty with which it complemented the severe right angles of [my] cubes. The elusive nature of the ellipse was translated onto paper: Which part is forward, and which is back? Are you looking at it from this side or that side, inside or outside?”