These cubes are made of laminated glass. I didn’t get much of a chance to look at Pacific Red II (2017) at eye level, but viewed from above up from the balconies at the Whitney allows one to look inside the structure of the complex geometry out of which these blood red, red, rose, pink boxes are comprised. Larry Bell is associated with Light and Space, a group out of Los Angeles in the 1960s that included artists like James Turrell, Robert Irwin, and Doug Wheeler.
Michael Compton, in a catalog essay from Larry Bell, Robert Irwin, Doug Wheeler exhibition at Tate Gallery, had this interpretation which I found at the Larry Bell wiki page:
“At various times and particularly in the 1960s some artists have worked near what could be called the upper limits of perceptions, that is, where the eye is on the point of being overwhelmed by a superabundance of stimulation and is in danger of losing its power to control it… These artists sometimes produce the effect that the threat to our power to resolve what is seen heightens our awareness of the process of seeing…However, the three artists in this show… operate in various ways near the lowest thresholds of visual discrimination. The effect of this is again to cause one to make a considerable effort to discern and so to become conscious of the process of seeing.”
As a matter of reception history, this might have reflected the first impressions of these kinds of work and the ideas and ideology behind their creation. I am not sure if this is true anymore. We are nowhere near an upper limit of perception. By now the effects have cooled down. No longer radical, they tickle the eye.
About the construction of these kinds of objects, I also grabbed this from Bell’s wiki page:
“The glass is typically covered with a film that has been treated using a technique called thin film deposition of metallic particles. This process takes place in a vacuum chamber, and involves vaporizing metal alloys that then settle on the glass surface. The concentration of the coating on the glass determines the variation in its reflective properties, and Bell uses this gradation to enhance the transparent and reflective properties of the glass.”
From this description, it might help to think about artifice and about the “thinness” of these cubes in relation to the passage of light through space made open by transparent coats of color.