art news & reviews & Interviews. jeff bergman, editor

44th – James Turrell

Turrell Panorama

James Turrell doesn’t need any press or praise from me.  The finite group of people who read Atlas are the choir, so I will keep the preaching to a minimum.  I just want to talk about light.  If you only want to devote a small portion of time to read about Turrell, click here and read Wil Hylton’s wonderful NY Times piece “How James Turrell Knocked the Art World Off Its Feet”

Without getting too John Berger or Carl Sagan on you, Light is all we ever have to see the art we cherish.  Light bounces around in our eyes and what we see is only a remnant of our perception.  Our visual reality is light.  When the art is light, like with Turrell, we focus on the trick or effect.  How does he do that?  Aten Reign (the centerpiece of the Guggenheim show), as Chuck Close points out in the Hylton article, “is an experience rather than an effect”.  Lights change and colors swell and a computer hums silently all day making peoples blue shirts green, but thats the effect.  For me, the experience is that every color you have ever seen becomes a nostalgic question.  After some time in Aten Reign, letting white light wash me clean and violet light create a dilated fog in my brain, I began to associate.  There is the blue that I have only ever seen on a snow-blanketed moonlit night, so bright that the eerie UFO-quality light that creeps in the blinds made me squirm, check and check again.  The orange of racking summer sunset light polluting my space with color that just escaped a fire.  Whites of stucco, eggs in styrofoam, linen, fresh house paint on raw slat fence rails, freshly sprayed and divided traffic lines on pavement and quite possibly the light we are all meant to follow at the very end.  The Frank Lloyd Wright coffee cup on 5th Avenue (where I have seen Kandinsky since I was old enough to notice them) is now something different to me, forever.  That experience, intended or not, is worth the price of admission alone ($22 by the way).


Turrell makes us think in terms of color in light with Aten Reign, which is not the aim of many of his works.  The other pieces at the Guggenheim do not rely upon color at all, only light.  Projected light and ambient light.  MOMA PS1’s Meeting, 1986 is the antithesis of Aten Reign, as it’s source of power is the natural unadulterated light of the daytime sky.  I will take the trip to LIC to see Meeting again soon to remind myself of the different ways Turrell amazes us with color and light by letting us look at the sky.  The Crater is another story.

I want to thank all of you who have supported the first year of Atlas.  The project will march on but I cannot do it without  please send me your feedback, ideas, criticism and support.  As I hope to grow Atlas, please send me any names of people whom you think might want to subscribe going forward.  I will ask their permission before I subscribe them.

Many Thanks,

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