It was in Los Angeles that James Turrell first recognized the kinds of perceptual acuity possible in smoggy, irradiated air. His first light projects—experiments with incandescence filtering through jerry-rigged apertures in his Santa Monica studio in 1966—were harbingers of his subsequent tests of the fugitive, natural environment in increasingly architectural terms. His long-standing embrace by the city is understandable, but his apotheosis will unfold elsewhere: in an extinct volcano in the Painted Desert northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona, for the forty-year project of Roden Crater, a celestial-observatory complex. In his most recent presentation at Kayne Griffin Corcoran (his seventh with the gallery), Turrell was framed not as a conjurer of immaterial experience but as a builder or, at minimum, a designer of structures in support of this ambition. Appropriately set in the sprawling exhibition site capped by a permanent “Skyspace” Turrell installed when the gallery opened its current location in 2013, his eponymous show suggested the import of his built forms, represented in diminutive prototypes and tabletop maquettes alongside wall-bound renderings on Mylar.
In James Turrell's Light at Kayne Griffin Corcoran
June 23, 2018
Turrell is a master at his craft, which — since the 1960s — has been light. A key figure in the Southern California Light and Space movement of the 1960s, Turrell has established a very successful career since then. He has enjoyed solo shows at the Whitney, the Stedelijk and MASS MOCA, won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1974 and received the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius grant” in 1984. In 2013, Turrell, who is 75 and based in Flagstaff, Arizona, had a highlight year. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York all organized sizable retrospectives of his work.