Biographical / Historical
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Eric Orr documentary photographs and papers
Date (inclusive): 1959-2012, undated
24.06 Linear Feet
(37 boxes, 2 boxed-rolls, 19 flatfile folders. Computer media:
10.90 GB [195 files])
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles 90049-1688
The Eric Orr papers consist primarily
of photographic prints, slides, transparencies, and negatives that document the Light and
Space movement artist's paintings, sculptures, and public fountains. Also present are
schematic drawings and plans for Orr's public works and ephemera, clippings, and
administrative files that detail Orr's life and practice.
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Language: Collection material is in English
Biographical / Historical
Eric Orr was a key figure in 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
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
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
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.
Eric Orr (1939-1998): A Survey of Works. Santa Monica, CA:
Robert Berman Gallery, .
Eric Orr: Time's Shadow. New York, NY: Scott Hanson Gallery,
Eric Orr: A Twenty Year Survey. San Diego, CA: University
Art Gallery, San Diego State University, 1984.
Phillips, Glenn. Acquisition Approval Form for "Eric Orr (American, 1939-1998), archive, c.
1959-1998, accession no. 2017.M.13," September 10, 2019.
Open for use by qualified researchers, with the exception of box 13, folder 11, which is
unavailable pending conservation treatment. Born digital content will be made available
on-site only, through the digital preservation repository. Born digital content and
audiovisual materials unavailable until reformatted. Contact reference for reformatting.
Eric Orr papers and documentary photographs, 1959-2012, undated, The Getty Research
Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2017.M.13.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of The Estate of Eric Orr. Acquired in 2017.
Sarah Mackenzie Wade processed the collection and wrote the finding aid in 2019.
Digital materials were processed by Laura Schroffel in 2019. Files require further
processing before access copies can be made available.
Crazy Wisdom documentary on Eric Orr, 2011,
Getty Research Institute, Accession no. 2015.M.26.
Giuseppe Panza papers, 1956-1990, Getty Research Institute, Accession no. 940004.
Hal Glicksman papers, 1927-2010, Getty Research Institute, Accession no. 2009.M.5.
Several publications have been transferred to the Getty Research Library's general
Scope and Content of Collection
The archive consists primarily of photographic prints, slides, transparencies, and
negatives that document the artist's paintings, sculptures, and public fountains from the
1970s to the 1990s. Also present are schematic drawings for Orr's public works projects and
their sites. To a lesser extent, the archive includes papers that detail Orr's practice,
with notes that relate to installation plans and project proposals, ephemera that pertains
to exhibitions of Orr's work, typescript accounts of Orr's friendship with artist James Lee
Byars, and transcripts of interviews conducted by the artist's daughter Elizabeth for her
Crazy Wisdom: The Life and Work of Eric Orr.
Arranged in three series:
Series I. Documentary photographs,
Series II. Schematic drawings, 1987-2001, undated;
Series III. Papers,
Subjects - Names
Subjects - Topics
Art, American -- California -- 20th century
Artists -- Archives
space (Art movement)
Light art -- California, Southern
Genres and Forms of Material
Black-and-white photographs -- 20th century
Blueprints (reprographic copies) -- 20th
Color photographs -- 20th
Color transparencies -- 20th century
Compact discs -- 20th century
Diffusion transfer prints -- 20th
Negatives (Photographs) -- 20th century
Printed ephemera -- 20th century
Slides (photographs) -- 20th century