'It's a neverending story': inside the amazing world of Larry Bell

As the 78-year-old artist premieres a new exhibition, he talks about an extensive career filled with experimentation and discovery Larry Bell’s cubes, arguably the star of the artist’s newly opened Institute of Contemporary Art Miami show, Larry Bell: Time Machines, sound so simple. Each consists of six panes of glass assembled into a box, but the effects of their sometimes smokey, sometimes iridescent surfaces “do improbable things to light that your eyes aren’t used to seeing”, according to Bell: they enhance the inherent ability of glass to reflect, transmit, and absorb light. The process that makes that possible is even more complex. In Taos, New Mexico, where the 78-year-old artist has lived since the early 70s, Bell operates his studio like a lab. At the center of it is his 14-ton vacuum deposition chamber, The Tank, a cold war-era behemoth of pipes and protruding wires. He acquired it in 1969, having had it built outside of Niagara Falls and shipped cross country to his then-studio in Venice Beach. For each cube, the glass panes go inside its iron belly, where the air pressure drops dramatically. Using jolts of electricity, the machine heats various metals – recently a lot of aluminum and silicon monoxide, but his ICA show has pricier early works in gold and chrome – until they melt and evaporate. Sitting in a wooden chair at a pancake-sized peephole, Bell observes as the metallic mist redeposits itself as a fine sheen on whatever’s in the chamber. Continue reading...