Explore the Era

Delve into the postwar Los Angeles art world in this online archive, which provides additional material related to the exhibitions on view at the Getty Center. Learn about hipsters and happenings, and the venues across the city where all the action took place through images from the archives and first-hand accounts with the artists.

Black on White

Black on White

Black on White, 2011, Robert Irwin. Granite. 60 x 36 x 392 in. This work was commissioned by the J. Paul Getty Trust in honor of James N. Wood. © Robert Irwin
These images show a model of the installation, the quarry in India where the granite was sourced, and the piece after delivery to the fabricator.

A wedge of black granite weighing 40,000 pounds, Black on White will extend from the Entrance Hall of the J. Paul Getty Museum into the courtyard. It was commissioned from Robert Irwin as part of the Pacific Standard Time initiative in honor of James N. Wood, the Trust’s former president and CEO, who passed away in June 2010.

Like all of Irwin’s work since the 1970s, this piece is site-conditional, organized conceptually and physically by the space in which it is installed. Just as architect Richard Meier considered the Getty rotunda as a lobby that encompasses both the indoors and the outdoors, Irwin’s sculpture literally moves from inside to outside, allowing the building’s glass wall to pass through its sculptural form. In conceiving Black on White, Irwin considered the rotunda’s light-filled space; as the light changes throughout the day, so does the surface quality of the polished granite. “It was a very big challenge to put a piece in that huge, heavily populated lobby and give it a commanding presence,” said Irwin. “I realized it had to be one gesture, and it had to be black, because everything else is white.”

Black on White will be on view at the Getty Center September 1, 2011 through March 18, 2012.

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Explore the Archive

  • Video: Robert Irwin’s installation Black on White

    Video: Documentation of the artistic process, fabrication, and installation of Robert Irwin’s installation Black on White

  • Robert Irwin and James Turrell

    Robert Irwin and James Turrell inside the anechoic chamber at UCLA, 1969. Image courtesy of Malcolm Lubliner and Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica. © Malcolm Lubliner

  • Larry Bell and Robert Irwin studios

    View of Market Street in Venice, California, in 1970, showing the studio buildings of Larry Bell (right) and Robert Irwin (left). Photo by Larry Bell. Courtesy of and © Larry Bell

  • Robert Irwin, ca. 1967

    Robert Irwin, ca. 1967. Photo by Frank J. Thomas. Courtesy of the Frank J. Thomas Archives