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FEATURE

James Turrell: “Knowing Light”

Henry Art Gallery
Seattle WA thru Oct 5, 2003

James Turrell - Spread
James Turrell, Spread (2003), installation view
[Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA, thru Oct 5, 2003]
photo Dean Welshman

Light is one of the most fundamental and essential elements in art. As such, James Turrell uses it as the sole subject for large-scale installations, transforming the bottom floor of the Henry Art Gallery. He makes the architectural spaces seem grand as well as intimately scaled by using the interior structure to shape the light.

Experiencing one of Turrell's pieces usually involves a mesmerizing illusion. There is a haunting transition period as the viewer’s eyes become adjusted to the subdued light. This physical transition mirrors the viewer’s perceptive shift.

The impressive work entitled Spread, a 4000-square foot environment, encompasses visitors with coloured light fields that feel infinite. An element of pure, Zen-like respect is introduced when visitors are required to remove their shoes before entering. The overall experience is humbling. Turrell terms these works the Ganzfeld pieces, named for the optical phenomenon where there is nothing for the eye to focus on. In these works, the light is so convincing that the space becomes a glowing abyss, much as if viewers were enclosed within Colour Field paintings.

Turrell bases his pieces on his life-long investigations of light, space, and perception. Carefully engineered, they are complex in both thought and conception. Turrell’s work holds an aesthetic integrity that is equivalent to the light of the full moon. Minimal and unadorned, there is a silent ambient vibration that welcomes quiet contemplation.

James Turrell - Spread
James Turrell, Spread (2003), installation view
[Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA, thru Oct 5, 2003] photo Richard Nicol

On July 11, the Henry Art Gallery is opening another piece by Turrell in its permanent outdoor sculpture collection. Light as Now, Turrell’s third installation of the type he terms “skyspaces”, will be a cylindrically-shaped architectural space that captures luminosity through a dome open to the outside.

© Allyn Cantor

FEATURES, NEW & OLD: Edgardo Aragón: Ley Fuga | Vanishing Ice | Kingston Prize | Charles Edenshaw | Jillian McDonald | William Perehudoff | Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough:The Treasures of Kenwood House, London | Carrying on Irregardless | Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou | James Nizam: Trace Heavens | Gaugin & Polynesia | Leslie Dill's Poetic Vision | Preview's 25th Anniversary in Print | The Surrealist Revolution in Art | Carl Beam | Shadows of a Fleeting World: Seattle Camera Club | Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National, Paris | Show of Hands: Northwest Women Artists 1880-2010 | Fleeting Beauty: Japanese Woodblock Prints | Judy Radul: World Rehearsal Court | Requiem: BY Photographers Who Died in Vietnam & Indochina | Andreas Gurksy: Werke/Works 80-08 | Chris Jordan: Running the Numbers II | Action-Camera: Beijing Performance Photography | Hiro Yamagata: T R A N S I E N T | Henk Pander: History and Typography | Mandy Greer: Dare alla Luce | Generation: Images of Youth | Rembrandt & Dutch Art's Golden Age | Seattle Art Museum at 75 | Life After Death: New Leipzig Paintings | Joanna Staniszkis: Silk City | Rodin: In His Own Words | First Nations Art: Historic to Contemporary | Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes | Three Rivers: Wild Waters, Sacred Places | Portland Art Museum | Acting Out: Claude Cahun & Marcel Moore | Isamu Noguchi: Sculptural Design | Rhythm and Change: The Bow in Contemporary Art | Douglas Curran: The Elephant Has Four Hearts | Fay Jones: Recent Paintings | Massive Change: Bruce Mau | Web Images: Quick Guide | Treasures From the Kröller-Müller | Gerry Deiter: Give Peace a Chance | InFest: International Artist-Run Culture | Silver: Dreams, Screens & Theories | Paul Wong: COLLECT | James Turrell: Knowing Light | Joanna Staniszkis: Linen’s Edge | Daniel Joliffe/Jocelyn Robert: Ground Station | Bratsa Bonifacho: Habitat Pixel | Edouardo Kac: Contemporary Art Explores Human Genomics | Douglas Gordon at the VAG | Walk Ways Explore Body-Mind Connection


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