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Eric Orr Paintings on Exhibit in Phoenix

Eric Orr / © Jim McHugh Photography

In 1981, Venice artist Eric Orr told filmmaker Stephen Seemayer that downtown Los Angeles was a place for “younger artists who necessarily take more risks than more established artists, because they don’t have that much to lose.” Orr labeled those artists as “Young Turks.”

“I believe Young Turks to be the lifeblood of the system,” Orr said.

Orr, who died in 1998 at the age of 58, told Seemayer he would never live downtown because conditions there were too harsh, there was not enough light and “only a modicum of clean air.”

Prime Matter

Prime Matter, Wilshire & Figueroa, downtown Los Angeles

Feeling Venice offered better “quality of life options,” Orr was associated with the Light & Space movement that also included artists such as James Turrell, Robert Irwin and Dewain Valentine. His public sculptures include Prime Matter, twin towers at the corner of Figueroa and Wilshire that combine the opposing forces of fire and water.

One of Orr’s most impressive pieces was Zero Mass, described here by John Seed of the Huffington Post after the installation was part of a Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego exhibit:

“Leah Masterson, a Communications Associate of the museum, walked in with me, and together we found ourselves in total darkness. Zero Mass, which Eric Orr first created in 1969, is an oval space, defined by seamless walls of paper. Your eyes will tell you — at first — that there isn’t a hint of light to be found, and the shock is unsettling.”

Because of the gradual activation of night vision, when another person walks into the piece, he or she appears as “a flat, dark, featureless silhouette, with just the slightest hint of color appearing towards his feet,” Seed writes. “Being joined by another person in this situation — where most of the visual clues to human identity were masked out — was intensely dramatic and rivetingly strange.”

BA-KA Radio Play, 1988, blood, AM/FM radio, skull chips, meteorite, gold leaf on lead

While mostly known for such sculptures and installations, Orr was also a painter, and on Nov. 1, the Bentley Gallery in Phoenix will open an exhibit of Orr’s paintings. The show will run through Dec. 31, 2014.

There will be a reception from 6-8 p.m. on Thurs., Nov. 13, The Bentley Gallery is located at 215 E. Grant St. in Phoenix.


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