By: Diane Granahan
March 30, 2014
April 6th marks the end of James Turrell: A Retrospective, a comprehensive exhibition organized by the LACMA, covering nearly 50 years of the artist’s sublime explorations using light and space. The show is the last remaining of a tripart retrospective where additional works were also exhibited at the New York Guggenheim and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
The Los Angeles exhibition begins with Turrell’s earlier works from the 60s and 70s, namely the Mendota Stoppages and The Projection Pieces. These give way as early fodder for his curiosity in the elusive and transformative nature of light in a space.
The show continues into a series of his Holograms, which seem understated at first, but are equally as disorienting as his Shallow Space Constructions (colored light seeping from cut-out walls) or his Wedgeworks series (light appearing as a wall or barrier).
St. Elmo’s Breath, known as a Space Division Construction, is a standout piece where one enters a darkened room and experiences what seems to be an endless, fuzzy, and muted color field revealing itself from the opposing wall. Another stellar installation is Breathing Light, a part of the Ganzfelds series, which requires visitors to take off their shoes and put on a pair of hospital booties prior entering a room of slowly changing colors – shifting from pink, to orange, to blue, to white. In this space, one might sense there are no edges, no boundaries, but only the color and light of which one is fully immersed in. At an additional $45.00 a pop, there is the Perceptual Cell titled Light Reignfall, a small spherical pod that “transports” the viewer in an intense pulsing bath of light and sound for a solid 12-minute period.
Turrell is also famously recognized for his site-specific works involving sky and landscape. The retrospective has not neglected this aspect of his career, as there is an entire room dedicated to his Skyspaces – equipped with videos, interviews and blueprints. These works are so popular there are currently more than seventy Skyspaces that have been built around the world.
The exhibition comes to a monumental and inspiring closure with an in-depth focus on his grand opus and current work-in-progress, the Roden Crater. The site for this work was chosen and discovered in 1974 after Turrell spent months flying across the United States in his single-engine airplane searching for an ideal site. The crater is an extinct volcanic cinder cone located near Arizona’s Painted Desert. The concept of this site-specific work is inspired by historic astronomical sites such as Machu Piccu, Angkor Wat, and the Egyptian Pyramids. However, Turrell’s idea of using the crater as an observatory does not perpetuate historical achievements and is not meant to stand out from it’s natural surroundings. It is intended as a space to look out from within, capturing the effects of light, landscape, and celestial events in a way that shakes up our own perception of what reality means to us.
If you have not seen it yet, James Turrell: A Retrospective is not to be missed.
*Please note, exhibition closes on April 6, 2014. Reservations are no longer available but there are still a limited number of tickets are offered by the LACMA to patrons who become first-time members. Tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.