Note: In order to think about this liminal work called Miracle Mile, I have elected to alternate the posted images between the work "itself" and its reflections to consider a point about light, place, and time (baby stroller included).
Situated in a transitional space between Chris Burden's Metropolis and a handful of Richard Serra's Torqued Ellipses at LACMA's BCAM hangs Robert Irwin's filtered T12 fluorescent light installation called Miracle Mile. In a series of vertically hung lamps that create a horizontal field as a whole, Irwin has created a visual rhythm of lights and darks in a narrow range of color (mostly reds, whites, and blues). In this way, it was difficult not to think of Nam June Paiks Video Flag Z, 1986 that is a representation of a US flag through a constellation of rapidly changing television monitors (each one a part of a larger whole) hung in this very wall previously (see here). However, rather than fast-paced imagery, Irwin's current is slow, painfully slow in one respect if you want to think about the passage of time in relationship to the burnout rate of a fluorescent bulb, and the image is self-reflected, though clearly other interpretations are available as my own suggest. Yes, there is gas flowing through each one of the fixtures producing light that holds on the interior of the phosphorescent glass of each one. More than an engineering detail, it seems like a metaphor for the work, it's site, and the passage of a body (individual, group et al) at whatever scale you would like. Fellow fluorescent light artist Dan Flavin was also counting on as much.
Speaking of gas, glass and speed, one is compelled, especially at certain times of day to consider the opposing wall of windows that looks onto Wilshire Boulevard, a section of the "Miracle Mile" in fact. A mixture of cars (gas powered glass/metal human enclosures) whiz by as pedestrians (unencumbered by industrial armor) take a variety of paces both leisurely and more purposeful as individuals or in groups. I wonder how many passersby pause to look inside the window? Certainly, the opportunity is greater at night when the windows become more transparent from the exterior view in relation to the illuminated interior. (See my post here regarding a demonstration of interior/exterior perceptions via glass from Irwin's 2011 installation of black granite in the Getty's rotunda).
Whatever the questions here, knowing Irwin, all of this was taken into account when he installed Miracle Mile. I think one can also think about the palm trees just outside the window that would allude to Irwin's other LACMA project regarding a variety of palm species, certainly icons of this locale. At least I'm assuming he still makes artworks that are situated entirely by the conditions of the site of reception (perception/conception). The reason I hesitate is that his 2011 show of similar works at L&M suggest otherwise (see here). It was his first gallery exhibition in something like forty or fifty years. Not to take Irwin to task on this point necessarily but in another way, why not, it does seem important to wonder about a shift in his studio practice, one that started with Abstract Expressionist styled paintings of the mid 1950's (see here) through spare painted then illuminated objects toward the sole conditions of specific spaces not to exclude programmatic landscape architecture, for example, again at the Getty.
Grant you, this progression and investigation on the nature of light, space, and objects has spanned a now fifty to sixty-year art career and one who is now still creating Art well into his eighties seems perfectly entitled to loosen up a bit and do whatever he wants. On this point, it's kind of refreshing. It's just interesting for me to think about how long Robert Irwin has spent parsing the specifics of light in relation to surface and place in order to arrive at such works, which, for all intents and purposes, mark a return to painting, indeed, in light of the title of the work shown here, a signpost to commemorate in some sense both the life and times of a person, a people, and a place.