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.

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