James Turrell



In James Turrell’s hands, light is more than simply a source of illumination: it is a discrete, physical object. His sculptures and architectural interventions elevate our experience and perception of light and space. Squares of sky seem to float, suspended, in ceilings or walls; architecture disintegrates; and brilliant geometric shapes levitate in midair. Turrell began using light as a sculptural medium in 1966, painting the windows of his studio in Santa Monica to seal off the natural light and experimenting with projections. His practice has been shaped by the ongoing manipulation of architecture, framing and altering the way viewers engage with the environment. A pioneer in the Southern California Light and Space movement, MASS MoCA presents a multi-decade retrospective of Turrell’s work in B6: The Robert W. Wilson Building — with galleries designed and constructed specially to best accentuate his installations. This exhibition features a major work from each decade of the artist’s career.

Perfectly Clear (Ganzfeld), James Turrell, 1992, From the collection of: MASS MoCA
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Turrell, who holds a degree in perceptual psychology, has created a number of works that he calls Ganzfelds, using curved corners and walls in combination with colored light to shape viewers' understanding of space and depth.

Perfectly Clear (Ganzfeld), James Turrell, 1993, From the collection of: MASS MoCA
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Ganzfeld is a German word referring to the loss of depth perception that arises when experiencing a lack of aural and visual stimulation, as in a whiteout.

Perfectly Clear (Ganzfeld), James Turrell, 1994, From the collection of: MASS MoCA
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For MASS MoCA, Turrell has installed his largest Ganzfeld by volume to date, titled Perfectly Clear — a two-story installation that viewers are able to enter, becoming immersed in the work.

Once Around, Violet (Shallow Space), James Turrell, 1971, From the collection of: MASS MoCA
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In Turrell's Shallow Spaces, the artist manipulates edges and flat surfaces with cast light, inventing apparent spaces of almost infitite perceptual depth.

Raethro II, Magenta (Corner Shallow Space), James Turrell, 1970, From the collection of: MASS MoCA
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The artist is a master at conflating space with light, compressing light-filled volumes into what at first eppeart to be planar shapes.

Guardian (Wedgework), James Turrell, 2018, From the collection of: MASS MoCA
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His Wedgeworks use light to create the illusion of a solid wall or scrim-like barriers — again achieved solely through light and architecture.

Dissolve (Curved Wide Glass), James Turrell, 2017, From the collection of: MASS MoCA
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Here, a mesmerizing sequence of colors and shapes floating cloud-like on a curved, scrim-like surface, slowly, almost imperceptibly merge and fold into one another.

Afrum (Projection), James Turrell, 1967, From the collection of: MASS MoCA
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In one of Turrell's earliest works on view at MASS MoCA, a glowing white cube seems to float in the corner of the room, generated by the light of a precisely placed projector.

Credits: Story

Principal exhibition support is provided by The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, Elisabeth Roche Wilmers and Robert Wilmers, and Ann and Graham Gund. Major exhibition support is provided by Scott and Ellen Hand, The Henry Luce Foundation, George and Lizbeth Krupp, the Francis Greenburger Charitable Fund of the Jewish Communal Fund, George W. Ahl III, and Hansjorg Wyss. Contributing exhibition support is provided by The Rosenkranz Foundation, Julie and David Tobey, and The Linbeck Group, LLC.

All photos by Florian Holzherr.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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