James Turrell, Aten Reign, 2013, Guggenheim Museum
(DAVID HELD/COURTESY SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM FOUNDATION)
James Turrell (b. 1943) makes art that requires long, drawn-out periods of concentration. Do you think we can manage that in this hyper-active, ADD, Digital Age? It's a stretch. Aten Reign, on view in the rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum, needs about an hour of constant viewing to experience the complete cycle of color changes.
Informed by his Quaker background (the belief in receiving an "inner light" through individual meditation at meetings), Turrell seems to make secular environments that seduce us into a moment of visual - and perhaps spiritual - pleasure. These installations illuminate shapes in contained spaces, sculpting interiors through directing radiance. Aten Reign's slow, subtle spectacle of color transition increases our awareness of an architectural form created specifically for the Guggenheim's central rotunda. The tones change ever so slowly, asking us to be patient. To wait.
And so we wait, becoming increasingly mindful. We wait to delight in the next magnificent hue, and we wait to embrace a fully conscious act of seeing in time and space.
For more information on this exhibition and other Turrell projects, please watch an interview on Charlie Rose wherein the artist explains his philosophies and ambitions.
And for an illuminating aural essay on eye-mind perception, please listen to Radiolab's podcast on color: (Season 10; Episode 13).
Aten Reign is Turrell's biggest museum installation so far. He is still working on his colossal masterpiece, Roden Crater, in Flagstaff, Arizona, begun in 1979. The Guggenheim's exhibition, James Turrell includes other works by the artist which belong to the museum's collection.
Concurrent with the Guggenheim exhibition, Turrell has two other shows in the US:
James Turrell: Retrospective at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA, through April 6, 2014) and James Turrell: The Light Inside at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas (through September 22, 2013).
And now a word from Culture Grrl and Deborah Solomon on New York's WNYC. Discotheque wedding cakes, anyone?
Beth New York
aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
New York Arts Exchange