Light and Space

Robert Irwin at the Whitney is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic: Robert Irwin turns a whole room into subtle abstraction.

(Photo by Lucy Hogg)

After the drubbing I gave James Turrell's Guggenheim mess, it's a pleasure to have found a Light And Space work I can get behind. Robert Irwin's 1977 piece, now reinstalled in the space at the Whitney it was conceived for, doesn't have one trademark wow-cool effect, or any paraphrasable point. It's a single scrim of fabric that cuts the room in two, and whose black bottom edge gets extended along all four walls. It has all the complexity of a really superb abstract painting, by Malevich, say, or maybe Jo Baer. A sure mark of its power?: Visitors seemed compelled to stay hushed in the room, even though there was no special reason for silence.

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