Renowned local artist Robert Irwin has focused much of his career on the act of perceiving, and how our senses combine to perceive the world around us at any moment. He worked with landscape architect Martin Poirier on the gardens for the Getty Center in Los Angeles. They’re teaming up again to work on the art component of the new federal courthouse in downtown San Diego.

Poirier joined five other speakers at our recent “Meeting of the Minds” event atop Horton Plaza’s parking garage to whirl us through fascinating topics in local arts, using 20 images displayed for 20 seconds each.

We’ve posted many of his compatriots’ videos already: Lauren Popp on innovative artist-run exhibition spaces, Javier Velasco on women’s contributions in local theater and dance, Anna Daniels on an intriguing, mind-stretching concert series and Jory Herman on what it takes to learn and teach the double bass.

Watch Poirier on what he’s learned from Irwin and what they’ve got in the works for the new courthouse:

Here are links to some of the artwork and projects Poirier mentioned and showed. In a career that has stretched over more than five decades, Irwin has installed or exhibited much of his artwork around San Diego.

• Irwin’s scrim work, “Shadow Planes,” in a post office in Washington, D.C.

• His 1983 sculpture “Two Running Violet V Forms,” an installation of purple fences in a eucalyptus grove, part of at the UC San Diego Stuart Collection.

• A permanent piece, “1° 2° 3° 4°” commissioned for the La Jolla campus of MCASD that cut open rectangles in windows overlooking the ocean to frame the view and allow the sound, smell and wind from outside to come in.

• Irwin’s plans for the federal courthouse include liberating a 33-foot acrylic prism from a university basement in Northridge, and growing hedges to certain specifications to create a chevron shape in the outdoor plaza. He’s collaborating with Poirier on that piece. I discovered more of the back story for this article. Here’s a rendering from the General Services Administration.

• I also found an example of one of his smaller prisms in this video from the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Are you familiar with Irwin’s work? Do you have a favorite? Leave us a note below.

I’m Kelly Bennett, Voice of San Diego arts editor. You can reach me directly at or 619.325.0531.

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Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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