CSULB campus is famed for its extensive outdoor sculpture collection in addition to its diverse and creative art community. But if you were to ask an art historian to pick the most significant, famed, and influential art piece on campus, he or she would probably say the Window Wall. Yep, that big, white square frame just outside the university art store is a sculpture—and a pretty important one at that.
Robert Irwin originally installed Window Wall for Cal State Long Beach in 1975 for a temporary art exhibition. It was originally an indoor installation, situated at the end of a gallery exhibition walkthrough. However, the piece was such a hit that it ultimately was reconstructed for a more permanent outdoor residency, whereas the rest of the gallery was eventually converted into the art store we know today. The plaster, concrete, and steel frame is pretty minimal and simplistic, intending to frame the ever-changing flow of campus activity. Irwin is a major figure in the avant-garde movement, focusing on themes of light and transparency in his works. He is one of America’s most prolific and significant postwar artists.
I pass by, around, and through the sculpture on an almost daily basis. It’s generally used as a place to sit, eat, and talk—its history largely forgotten. This obliviousness to fame reminded me of our recent class discussions of celebrity. Los Angeles natives generally couldn’t care less about all of the movie stars, music artists, and comedians that frequent their city. Celebrities are so commonplace in Los Angeles, that they are really just regular, slightly better looking people with marvelously well-paying jobs. Just as the Window Wall is really just a nice place to sit for CSULB students, so celebrities are just people for L.A. natives.
I couldn’t tell you why Window Wall got to be endowed with celebrity status in the art world, for I’ve seen it so often that it’s really just become more of an old friend with a nice view to me. Of course, neither could I tell you why Brad Pitt got picked to be a world-famous celebrity. Why do only some beautiful things get noticed over all the other beautiful things in the world?