6 Questions with Artist Larry Bell, Collaborator on Mannington Commercial’s New Collection
Lines often are blurred between art and design, especially when it comes to creating unique patterns and shapes. Following suit, Mannington Commercial, a leading flooring company that specializes in commercial spaces, recently teamed up with renowned artist Larry Bell on The Hocus Collection. Here Bell discusses the inspiration behind the modular carpet collection, which debuted at NeoCon 2019.
Why is the collection called The Hocus Collection?
Larry Bell: “Hocus” to me means something magical and improbable. I’ve never done anything like this before. […] The idea that my work might be able to be used for things other than just to look at, and in that it could be now walked on, I found that rather interesting.
How were the patterns created? What do you think of the completed collection?
LB: Images of things that I’ve done were played with and changed and combined with different textures and different surfaces. And the collection that came from it is beautiful. The patterns, the colors, are just really amazing, and they all work well together. It’s added another dimension to my media that I had not realized was possible. […] Everybody that comes to see my work, or Mannington’s work, or the mirage of my work and Mannington’s work—there are going to be as many different opinions or feelings about it as there will be people that see it. It’s part of our history now. And so, therefore, it’s part of art history.
You’ve worked in many different media—paint on canvas, glass, bronze, coated plastic. What is your preferred medium?
LB: I always thought, no matter what kind of materials I used, that my media was the interface of light and surface. All we really see is the light off of surfaces. Everything has a different quality to the surface, and the way the light comes off of the different quality of surface tells us what it is.
In your glass sculptures and Standing Walls installations, you use glass that you have applied a special coating to, which changes the transparency. Why?
LB: I began making my own kind of mirrors with a process called vacuum deposition, which is simply the evaporation of metals in a vacuum chamber onto a glass surface. Different kinds of materials did different kinds of things to the light, but the surface wasn’t changed. It still looked like a piece of glass, but the way the light came off it and went through it—I realized that glass did three things that I hadn’t realized before. First of all, I knew it transmitted light, and I knew it reflected light, but I never realized how much of an impact the absorption of light was in the same piece of glass. All at once, glass reflects, absorbs, and transmits light, and that makes it a very interesting material to work with. The processes and procedures that I’ve used had to do with enhancing one of those three things to change the nature of everything else.
Many of your glass sculptures and installations take the form of cubes, or play with right angles. What is the significance of these forms to you?
LB: If you think about the placement of the [glass] panels in relation to each other that make up the cube, each one of them has an interplay with the light and with its neighboring panels and so on. And I see the reflections that interplay between the panels—this expansion of the cube in reflections—as all being real space, created by the relationships of one panel to another. […] There seemed to me to be no end to the number of permutations that one could generate from something as simple as a cube, six sides. Inherent in this simple structure is an infinite number of visual relationships that are much greater than the object itself. […] I mean, if I were to ask you to count the number of right angle relationships just in the room you’re in, you couldn’t do it. There are too many. So it’s always something new. And there are all kinds of wonderful shapes and shadows that are created simply by the lighting. Every one of those things is real. And I love that. I love to recognize those things. I’ve spent my life counting on these things to exist for me.
What is your artistic process? How do you set about creating your works?
LB: That’s the best part of being an artist—that you don’t know anything until you do it. I followed my work. The work is my teacher. Everything I do tells me something about what I did before. I count on three things—intuition, spontaneity, and improvisation—to organize and actually factor evidence of my thoughts. People are blessed with those three possibilities, and the artists are the ones who tend to use them the most. […] I can usually tell when something is honest and inspired by those three things I mentioned. And I like whatever comes out if it’s honest. I think everything that’s made that has some love in its makeup has a great and important function in our society. I’m not in a position to say what that is. I just know it’s important.
Text reprinted with permission from Mannington Commercial.