“Light is a powerful substance. We have a primal connection to it. But, for something so powerful, situations for its felt presence are fragile. I form it as much as the material allows… My desire is to set up a situation to which I take you and let you see. It becomes your experience.” James Turrell in Mapping Spaces.
Influenced by the notion of phenomenology in pictorial art, Turrell focused, in his earliest work, on the dialectic between constructing light and painting with it, building on the sensorial experience of space, colour, and perception. These interactions became the foundation for his oeuvre, which evolved to an investigation of the immateriality of light itself.
Turrell’s exhibition at Pace in London, from 11th February to 27th March, features three new works from the Constellation series staged in site-designed chambers. The works will feature elliptical and circular shapes with a frosted glass surface animated by an array of technically advanced LED lights, which are mounted to a wall and generated by a computer programme. The light changes are subtle and hypnotic, one colour morphing into the next. The programme runs on a loop that is imperceptible to the viewer, prompting a transcendental experience. With these new works, Turrell continues his exploration of technological possibilities combined with sensory practices and gradient colours.
“To some degree, to control light I have to have a way to form it, so I use form almost like the stretcher bar of a canvas… When I prepare walls, I make them so perfect that you actually don’t pay attention to them. This is true of the architecture of form I use: I am interested in the form of the space and the form of territory, of how we consciously inhabit space.” James Turrell.
Since his earliest Projection Pieces (1966–69), Turrell’s exploration has expanded through various series, including Skyspaces (1974–), Ganzfelds (1976–), and perhaps most notably, his Roden Crater Project (1977–) near Flagstaff, Arizona. Representing the culmination of the artist’s lifelong research in the field of human visual and psychological perception, Roden Crater is a controlled environment for the experiencing and contemplation of light and stars, a shared interest with Pace’s exhibition in London. Fundraising is underway to complete the construction and open it to the public.
Turrell’s practice has equally materialized in small-scale works, including architectural models, holograms, and works on paper. His inspiration draws from astronomy, physics, architecture and theology.
James Turrell: Passages of Light is currently on view until 29 March 2020 at Fundación Jumex, Mexico City.