Robert Irwin: A Desert Of Pure Feeling

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production


Legendary iconoclast Robert Irwin pioneers the concept of ‘site specific’ art, emerging from decades of obscurity to become one of the most influential artists alive today.


Legendary California “light and space” artist Robert Irwin investigates the value of human perception in a world that is becoming increasingly mechanized. A decade-spanning career defined by radical gestures culminates in Irwin’s magnum opus, a dazzling installation in the majestic desert town of Marfa, Texas.


This film is largely archival; the story of Irwin’s artistic journey is told primarily in his own words with archival footage, audio recordings, and a wealth of photographs from the past five decades of Irwin and his artworks. New interviews with Irwin’s close friends and colleagues as well as contemporary artists who have been influenced by Irwin’s work provide context for the various stages of Irwin’s life and show how relevant and influential his work is in today’s art world. These interviews act as bridges between archival clips of young Irwin speaking passionately and articulately about his artistic and philosophical journey. An interview shot in 1976 by artists Kate Horsfield and Lyn Blumenthal is a primary source;.artistically shot on high quality black and white video, this dynamic film shows Irwin at his most charismatic, and is woven throughout the documentary. Other archival clips from each of the stages of Irwin’s life track Irwin’s evolution as an artist and human being, from young, idealistic painter to eighty-eight year old man who has fully retained his youthful passion, conviction, and joie de’ vivre. Vintage photographs taken by Irwin’s close friend, artist Larry Bell, bring the ethereal realm of Irwin’s earliest installations to life on film. Bell’s pictures were taken on a Widelux camera, and have a dreamy, subjective feel. Animation adds subtle movement to the images, and their super wide format is conducive to pans and other dynamizing moves. The natural world is critical to Irwin’s work, both as inspiration and subject matter, and the film uses gorgeous footage of landscapes, flora, clouds, and light phenomena that have been acquired in 4k to bring the viewer inside of Irwin’s perspective. These images also provide non-verbal space for contemplation and sensual engagement, as a counterpoint to Irwin’s words. Much of Irwin’s existing work is situated outdoors, and these works are photographed using drone from above, as well as 4k acquired with an Arri Alexa camera on the ground. Stedicam is used to create experiential images that convey a first person feeling of moving through Irwin’s installations. These techniques culminate in the sequence depicting the Marfa installation, where the documentation becomes a form of visual music. Fluid first person camera moves immerse the viewer inside of the extraordinary space created by Irwin, creating a cinematic surrogate for the experience of being there in person.


Jennifer Lane - Producer/Writer/Director
Jennifer Lane is a writer, filmmaker, and visual artist. Her films have been shown at the UCLA Hammer Museum, the Austin Film Society, the Miami International Film Festival, Antimatter, and many other galleries, museums and festivals. As a writer/editor, Jennifer’s credits include the award-winning documentary Agave Is Life (2014). In 2011, Jennifer co- founded the CineMarfa film festival in Marfa, Texas, now in its tenth year, which showcases artist-made, archival, and other rarely screened films. She continues to serve as co-director and co-programmer of the festival.

David Hollander - Producer/DP
David Hollander is a producer, director, and cinematographer. Born in Los Angeles, David grew up in the film industry where he amassed a long list of credits as a child actor. He recently directed, produced, and shot a short documentary about a new artwork by renowned sculptor Richard Serra. As a producer, David has overseen a variety of artists’ films that have been shown in museums and galleries internationally. Other recent credits include Mika Rottenberg’s film Spaghetti Blockchain, currently on display at the New Museum in New York through mid-September of 2019.

Carolyn P. Pfeiffer - Executive Producer
Carolyn Pfeiffer has produced over twenty feature films. Her career began as an assistant to Claudia Cardinale on the sets of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Visconti’s The Leopard. Since then Carolyn’s work has been shown in many festivals including Cannes, Sundance, SXSW and Berlin. She was founding president of Island Alive, Alive Films, and Burnt Orange Productions. She was founding president of The Los Angeles Film School and Master Filmmaker in Residence of American Film Institute. Most recently Carolyn Executive Produced the acclaimed documentary Children of Giant.

Nancy P. Sanders - Executive Producer
Nancy P. Sanders is a producer, screenwriter, and active board member of the cultural arts organization, Ballroom Marfa. Her most recent credit is Executive Producer on The River and The Wall, an documentary that follows five friends on an immersive adventure through the unknown wilds of the Texas borderlands as they travel 1200 miles from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico on horses, mountain bikes, and canoes. Her script, Poe’s Second Chance ranked in the top thirty scripts of the 2009 Nicholl Fellowship and took top honors at the 2008 Vail Film Festival feature screenplay competition.

Joan Churchill - additional cinematography
Joan Churchill is an award winning cinematographer whose numerous credits include Gimme Shelter, A Maysles film, Peter Watkin’s Punishment Park, and Aileen Wuarnos: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, which she shot and co-directed with Nick Broomfield. More recent credits include the shooting of the memorial concert for George Harrison Concert For George, a film by David Lelane, Bearing Witness, directed by Barbara Kopple, and HBO’s Bastards of the Party. She just completed a Discovery feature doc, Snow Blind, directed by Vikram Jayanti, about the lovely Rachael Scdoris, a blind Iditarod racer and her team of dogs.


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