Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘James Turrell’

Photo: Michelle Groskopf.
At home in Arizona, James Turrell views plans for the access road to his giant desert artwork. “Tight contour lines near the center represent the steep slope to the summit,” the
Smithsonian reports.

What is the difference between intensity and obsession, and does the latter ever benefit humanity? Read this story and be the judge. It’s about an artist in his late 70s who as a young man spent a year in jail for teaching other young men how to avoid the draft — and Vietnam. An unusual person.

At the Smithsonian magazine, Wil S. Hylton describes James Turrell’s massive art project in the desert.

“It was a cloudless day in northern Arizona,” writes Hylton, “and James Turrell wanted to show me an illusion. We climbed into his pickup truck and drove into the desert. After a few miles, he turned off the pavement to follow a dusty road; then he turned off the road and barreled across the desiccated landscape. When we reached the base of a red volcano, he shifted into four-wheel-drive. …

“The engine groaned and Turrell gripped the wheel with two hands as we climbed. Here and there we lost traction and slipped backward a few feet, but eventually we reached the top. The desert stretched for miles around, a patchwork of green and gold and brown, with the snowcapped peaks of the San Francisco mountains on the horizon.

“Turrell pointed down. ‘You see how the area right below us seems to be the lowest point?’ he asked. I followed his gaze, and it was true: The desert appeared to slope toward us from every direction, as if the volcano were sitting at the bottom of an immense bowl. ‘But it can’t be,’ Turrell said, ‘or we’d be surrounded by water. This is an illusion that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry talked about. You have to be between 500 and 600 feet above the terrain for it to happen.’ …

“Turrell, who turns 78 this year, has spent half a century challenging the conventions of art. While most of his contemporaries work with paint, clay or stone, Turrell is a sculptor of light. He will arrive at a museum with a construction crew, black out the exterior windows, and build a new structure inside — creating a labyrinth of halls and chambers, which he blasts with light in such a way that glowing shapes materialize. In some pieces, a ghostly cube will appear to hover in the middle distance. In others, a 14-foot wedge of green shimmers before your eyes. One series that Turrell calls ‘Ganzfelds’ fills the room with a neon haze. To step inside is to feel as if you are falling through a radioactive cloud. In another series, ‘Skyspaces,‘ Turrell makes a hole in the roof of a building, then winnows the edges around the opening to a sharp point. The sky above appears to flatten on the same plane as the rest of the ceiling, while supersaturated tones of light infuse the room below.

“Turrell’s work can be found in 30 countries around the world. He has produced nearly 100 Skyspaces alone. … The volcano is different. It is Turrell’s most ambitious project, but also his most personal. He has spent 45 years designing a series of tunnels and chambers inside to capture celestial light. Yet Turrell has rarely allowed anyone to visit the work in progress. Known as Roden Crater, it stands 580 feet tall and nearly two miles wide. One of the tunnels that Turrell has completed is 854 feet long.

When the moon passes overhead, its light streams down the tunnel, refracting through a six-foot-diameter lens and projecting an image of the moon onto an eight-foot-high disk of white marble below.

“The work is built to align most perfectly during the Major Lunar Standstill every 18.61 years. The next occurrence will be in April 2025. To calculate the alignment, Turrell worked closely with astronomers and astrophysicists. Because the universe is expanding, he must account for imperceptible changes in the geometry of the galaxy. He has designed the tunnel, like other features of the crater, to be most precise in about 2,000 years. Turrell’s friends sometimes joke that’s also when he’ll finish the project. …

“One thing I came to understand about Turrell was that, deep in his marrow, the crater was not just a vision but a kind of duty. The decades of struggle to gather funds, perfect the design and continue work on the project were culminating in the twilight of his life with a painful recognition that time was running out. … He had, reluctantly, shifted his focus to drafting meticulous blueprints for the crater, so that if he did not complete it, someone else could. But there was little peace in that. He seemed to be torn between the forces of obsession and mortality.

“That began to change a few years ago, when Turrell got a call from Kanye West. Like countless others, West wanted to visit the crater. But for reasons even Turrell cannot explain, he agreed to give West a private tour. Late one night, they wandered for hours through the underground chambers, staring at the stars and basking in ethereal light. Afterward, West offered to donate $10 million to the project, which Turrell, who has received many more offers than actual donations over the years, regarded as a compliment, but little more. Then the money appeared.”

Whoa!

Read the whole story at the Smithsonian, here.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: