Seeing the light: James Turrell unveils new work at Kayne Griffin Corcoran in LA
To speak of James Turrell’s ’vision’ is almost besides the point. In the artist’s work, our perception is both the singular experience and its transcendence, the ocular sense given back to us in the form of immersion. He has said that his pieces have ’no object, no image and no focus’; that what we’re looking at, instead of visual information, is the flat-out marvel of our eyes, still working, and enough light - sometimes barely enough light, as much light as we need - for us to really see.
’My first encounter with a Turrell work was a visit to a private Skyspace in Los Angeles,’ recalls Maggie Kayne of the contemporary art gallery Kayne Griffin Corcoran, which recently opened its fifth exhibition of Turrell’s work. ’It was transformative in a way that affected the way that I looked at art in the future as something that is to be experienced deeply as well as enjoyed visually.’
At the Kayne Griffin Corcoran exhibition, which debuted a day after Turrell was honored at LACMA’s 2015 Art + Film Gala and just weeks after the hip-hop artist Drake released a video deeply influenced by Turrell’s work, the artist presented several new wall works: elliptical glass pieces, each in their own room, that slowly change colour over the course of three hours. As much has been written about Turrell’s gathering and mastery of light, his medium might also be time, that particular challenge of holding attention. At Kayne Griffin Corcoran, for which Turrell designed the conference room, as well as the outdoor courtyard and skylights, even routine meetings are surrounded in ’wonderful changing light,’ Kayne says, though she notes that her favourite time in the gallery’s Skyspace is ’sunset, of course.’
Other pieces in the show depict the many phases of ’Aten Reign,’ Turrell’s 2013 installation at the Guggenheim museum in New York. In their elliptical shapes, too, the prints echo aspects of the artist’s ambitious magnum opus Roden Crater, an extinct volcano on which he began work in 1974. ’I’m amazed by his vision which is singular in our contemporary art world. The fact that he is realising such an ambitious project such as Roden Crater attests to his vision and tenacity,’ Kayne says. ’I think that the works in this exhibition which consist of elliptically shaped planes of subtly changing coloured light relate directly to the Roden Crater in that the ellipse is a repeated shape there. As James says, ‘nature loves the ellipse.’