Robert Irwin was born in 1928 in Long Beach, California to Robert Irwin and Goldie Anderberg Irwin. After serving in the United States Army from 1946 to 1947, he attended several art institutes: the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles from 1948 to 1950, Jepson Art Institute in 1951, and Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles from 1952 to 1954. He spent the next two years living in Europe and North Africa. In 1957 and 1958 he taught at the Chouinard Art Institute.
For more than six decades, Robert Irwin has explored perception as the fundamental issue of art. Irwin, who began his career as a painter in the 1950s and became the pioneer of the L.A.-based “Light and Space” movement in the 1960s, has, through a continual breaking down of the frame, come to regard the role of art as “conditional,” or something that works in and responds to the specific surrounding world of experience. Irwin has conceived fifty-five site-conditional projects since 1975, ranging from the architectural and grounds design of Dia: Beacon Center for the Arts (completed in 2003) to the lush Central Gardens for the Getty Center in Los Angeles, California (completed in 2005). Robert Irwin became the first artist to receive the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 1984.