James Turrell (born May 6, 1943) is an American artist whose body of work is concerned with light, space and perception. Turrell was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1984, and his most iconic work in progress is entitled Roden Crater, a natural cinder cone crater located outside Flagstaff, Arizona that he is turning into a massive naked-eye observatory. Of Roden Crater, Turrell says: “It is a volcanic crater located in an area of exposed geology, the Painted Desert, an area where you feel geologic time. You have a strong feeling of standing on the surface of the planet.”
In April 2009, The James Turrell Museum opened at the Bodega Colomé in the Province of Salta, in Argentina. It was designed by Turrell after Donald Hess, the owner of the Bodega and owner of a few of Turell’s works, told him he wanted to dedicate a museum to his work. It contains 9 light installations, including a skyspace (Unseen Blue), and several drawings and prints. Turrell’s work is represented in numerous public collections including the Tate Modern, London; the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the de Young Museum, San Francisco; the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; and Hansol Museum, Wonju.
In Japan, Turrell’s works are exhibited at several large museums, including the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa and a permanent installation at the Chichu Art Museum at Benesse Art-Site in Naoshima. At the latter, Turrell’s work Afrum – Pale Blue (1968), Open Field (2000) and Open Sky (2004) are displayed. As part of the Naoshima town exhibitions, his Minamidera (Southern Temple) was designed together with renowned architect Tadao Ando. Also, in Tokamachi, Niigata, Turrell’s House of Light has a view of the sunrise through the open roof that has been described as “the almost imperceptible change into deep blue was incredibly moving.”
On June 21, 2013, James Turrell unveiled his impressive new work Aten Reign inside New York’s Guggenheim Museum, his first exhibition in a New York museum since 1980. Aten Reign focuses on the artist’s groundbreaking explorations of perception, light, color, and space, with a special focus on the role of site specificity in his practice. At its core is Aten Reign (2013) is a major new project that recasts the Guggenheim rotunda as an enormous volume filled with shifting artificial and natural light. One of the most dramatic transformations of the museum ever conceived, the installation reimagines Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic architecture — its openness to nature, graceful curves, and magnificent sense of space — as one of Turrell’s Skyspaces, referencing in particular his magnum opus the Roden Crater Project (1979 -).
Reorienting visitors’ experiences of the rotunda from above to below, Aten Reign gives form to the air and light occupying the museum’s central void, proposing an entirely new experience of the building. Other works from throughout the artist’s career are displayed in the museum’s Annex Level galleries, offering a complement and counterpoint to the new work in the rotunda. Organized in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, James Turrell comprises one of three of major Turrell exhibitions spanning the United States during summer 2013. This exhibition is curated by Carmen Giménez, Stephen and Nan Swid Curator of Twentieth-Century Art, and Nat Trotman, Associate Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. James Turrell is on exhibit at the Guggenheim from now until September 25, 2013.
James Turrell recently sat down with Charlie Rose for a conversation about his life’s work and the “big picture” ideas which have motivated and inspired him throughout his career. The first 2/3 of the conversation explore Turrell’s journey, his process, and his best known works, but in the final third of the 18-minute conversation, Turrell begins to speak about the phenomenon of light and the profound philosophical and scientific questions raised by our relationship to it. Among the most mind-shattering is when Turrell discusses a recent discovery in physics which proves that when light is observed with the human eye, the light begins to behave and react in mysterious ways, implying that light is a conscious entity in and of itself. You can watch the interview in full below, and for more from the world of James Turrell be sure to visit JamesTurrell.com.