The Guggenheim – Kandinsky in Paris

Before, during and after World War I, artists sought to create paradigms that would move European culture in a new direction, a tabula rasa for the arts. The German Bauhaus, the Dadaists at the Cafe Voltaire in Zurich and the post impressionists performed a fresh aesthetic that would integrate art, architecture, music, philosophy and spiritual psychology. The Avant garde, infused with musical and intellectual dissonance clashed with nationalistic myths perpetuated by nascent fascist regimes. Wassily Kandinsky sought to express the soul of art, each piece becoming the sum of its prior parts.  Having studied music and the law as a young man growing up in an affluent Russian family, he found new life in art and resonance with Madam Blavatsky and the Theosophists as he  describes in his book The Art of Spiritual Harmony. While he remains a noted theorist among symbolist artists, his insistence on remaining true to the expression of the most vital inner compulsion of his soul and in translating music visually is most apparent in the development and increasing abstraction of his work.

European art in the late 19th and early 20th Century expressed the transformation of naturalism as it was expressed in the Art Nouveau period into more symbolic and abstract styles of the Modern Art movement.

The dissonance of the modern era is lyrically expressed in the explosion of sub-conscious imagery in the turn of the 20th Century. Electrified music has done the same for the 21st. Kandinsky sought to project the impulse of his soul, much like James Turrell projects his inner light onto the public canvas. Will we recognize the essence of our humanity in their expression?

If the emotional power of the artist can overwhelm the “how?” and can give free scope to his finer feelings, then art is on the crest of the road by which she will not fail later on to find the “what” she has lost, the “what” which will show the way to the spiritual food of the newly awakened spiritual life. This “what?” will no longer be the material, objective “what” of the former period, but the internal truth of art, the soul without which the body (i.e. the “how”) can never be healthy, whether in an individual or in a whole people.

James Turrell: the Light is the message

James Turrell first greeted the light growing up in Southern California as a Quaker.  His ongoing fascination with and dedication to the transformative experience of light suffused spaces has found international recognition and response.  Currently exhibiting in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (opening May 26); the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (June 9); and the Guggenheim Museum in New York (June 21), The University of Texas at Austin will dedicate a Turrell Skyspace installation in the Fall of 2013.
Turrell’s observation of the differences in light while flying his plane and in the studio, coupled with his study of mathematics and perceptual psychology, fueled early experiments creating light paintings by means of various projectors. At 70, he continues to refine his installations, creating a mystical experience of changing, light filled-rooms, complimented by smooth fabric walls. The Guggenheim’s eliptical gallery created a soft, womb-like environment for an audience leaning back on the curved bench around the wall’s perimeter. Looking up at the rich shades of slowly transforming colors a hundred people greeted the light. The outer projection of his inner awareness of light affords us the opportunity to step directly into the experience. While building houses of light in every time zone, Turrell continues to create his summum bonum, the Roden Crater project in Arizona.

JAMES TURRELL: It’s about perception. For me, it’s using light as a material to influence or affect the medium of perception. I feel that I want to use light as this wonderful and magic elixir that we drink as Vitamin D through the skin—and I mean, we are literally light-eaters—to then affect the way that we see. We live within this reality we create, and we’re quite unaware of how we create the reality. So the work is often a general koan into how we go about forming this world in which we live, in particular with seeing.