Larry Bell was born in Chicago and grew up in Los Angeles. After graduating from the Chouinard Art Institute in 1959, he began working at a frame shop in the San Fernando Valley, where he would “experiment with scraps of glass while at the shop, making small constructions with the material and other framing supplies.”1 This period marked a shift in Bell’s career away from painting toward three-dimensional works in light and glass.
Bell moved to New York in 1965, at which point he met Donald Judd and Frank Stella, who would remain his lifelong friends and supporters; he returned to Los Angeles in 1967. Judd wrote of Bell’s work in 1983, “At the same time as Pollock and since, almost all first-rate art has been based on an immediate phenomenon, for example, the work of Dan Flavin and Larry Bell. The necessity for this kind of immediacy is one reason three-dimensional art has been the most advanced for twenty years.”2
Bell has described his early shaped canvas paintings as “illustrations of volumes” or “efforts to define the cubic volume by the canvas shape.”3 In a 1979 interview, Bell said, “There was a point at which I realized that the illustration of volumes doesn’t make much sense. . . . I made the canvas the shape of the image—and altered the space inside to create a volume in a volume. As the volume was really the most interesting to me, the first cubes were born.”4 The title of this painting, Lux at the Merritt Jones, is a reference to a hotel that once stood across the street from his former studio on Marine Street in Venice, California.5