A Desert of Pure Feeling is a feature documentary about legendary California “light and space” artist Robert Irwin, whose decade-spanning career has profoundly influenced generations of artists.
He began as a charismatic painter in LA’s late 60s “cool school” scene, then turned his back on the art world for nearly a decade to pursue pure dialogue, philosophy, and experimentation. As Irwin explored the nature of materials, light, and perception itself, he made his living as a gambler at the racetrack and as a beloved teacher, nurturing the talents of a diverse group of now-famous artists including Chris Burden, Ed Ruscha, and Vija Celmins.
In an art world dominated by spectacle, Irwin’s installations transform our experience of being in the world using the simplest of materials. His unconventional – and often ephemeral – projects resist categorization and defy commodification; “catching lightning in a bottle” is the artist’s favorite metaphor for what he does. From his early experiments with biofeedback to his dazzling experiential installation in Marfa, Texas, Irwin’s career has been defined by radical gestures that investigate the value of human sensory experience in a world that is becoming increasingly mechanized.