Getty Research institute Adds Eric Orr Archive

The Eric Orr documentary archive and papers are now part of Getty Special Collections

The photographs, slides, and negatives of paintings, sculptures, and fountains by contemporary artist Eric Orr have recently been acquired by the Getty Research Institute (GRI). The archive also includes schematic drawings and plans for Orr’s public works, as well as ephemera, clippings, and administrative files that detail his life and practice.

Eric Orr (1939-1998) is a key figure of the Light and Space movement in Southern California. Born in 1939 in Covington, Kentucky, Orr graduated from the Kentucky Military Institute in 1958 and spent his early years traveling across the United States and Cuba. He briefly attended the University of Cincinnati in the early 1960s, where he produced his first sculpture, Colt .45, a work later known as Saturday Night Special. The work featured a mounted pistol facing a chair; viewers could sit and control the pistol via a foot pedal. Orr participated in civil rights protests in Mississippi in 1964 before relocating to Los Angeles in 1965, where he began to produce performances, sound art, and perceptual installations, using the elemental qualities of silence, sound, darkness, and light as material. Among these works was Zero Mass (1972-1973), an immersive 38-foot-long installation made of paper, where up to five people could enter a dark oval chamber and, after 10 to 12 minutes, experience altered vision from the lack of spatial perception. Developing alongside both Southern California conceptual art and the perceptual-based installations commonly associated with Light and Space art, Orr’s work spanned a variety of artistic practices that challenged the definition of artmaking while also incorporating a broad range of cultural references, including space icons found in ancient religions and cultures, Egyptian symbolism, and Buddhist spiritualism. From the 1970s onward, Orr created a diverse body of atmospheric monochrome paintings using airbrushing and oil paint, wall-mounted sculptures, and public artworks which incorporated a variety of elements including fire, water, gold, volcanic ash, meteorite dust, and his own blood.Orr participated in a number of international exhibitions during his life, including documenta VII (1982), the Sydney Biennale (1986), and the Venice Biennale (1986). His work can be found in many public and private collections, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Orr died in Venice, California, in 1998.

The archive will be open to researchers and is among numerous archives at the GRI related to the Light and Space movement and Southern California artists and curators, making it the ideal home for his legacy. 

Learn more about the Getty Research Institute Special Collections here:

The archive is available for research here

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