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LACMA presents first major retrospective of James Turrell in nearly thirty years
James Turrell, Bridget's Bardo, 2009. Ganzfeld. Installation view at Kunstmuseum Wlfsburg, Germany, 2009. ©James Turrell. Photo: ©Florian Holzherr.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents James Turrell: A Retrospective, the first major U.S. survey of Los Angeles-native James Turrell since 1985. The exhibition features approximately fifty works tracing five decades of the artist’s career. In addition to early light projections, holograms, and an entire section devoted to his masterwork-in progress, the Roden Crater project, the exhibition features numerous immersive light installations that address our perception and how we see. LACMA’s retrospective is complemented by concurrent, independently curated exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH)(June 9—September 22, 2013); and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (June 21—September 25, 2013). Additional Turrell exhibitions on view this year include the Academy Art Museum, Easton (April 20—July 7, 2013); and Villa Panza, Varese, Italy (October 24, 2013—May 4, 2014).

“The theme of light has preoccupied artists for centuries,” says Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director of LACMA and exhibition cocurator. “No one, however, has so fully considered the ‘thing-ness’ of light itself—as well as how the experience of light reflects the wondrous and complex nature of human perception—as James Turrell has for nearly five decades.”

Christine Y. Kim, exhibition co-curator and Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at LACMA adds, “There is nothing quite like the experience of a Turrell work, which is truly about and for the viewer and his or her perception. Perception is the medium for Turrell, as his work provokes viewers to see themselves see.”

Turrell’s revolutionary use of light in art makes for an experience that is both physical and optical—requiring visitors to spend anywhere from five to twenty minutes with one artwork, often alone in a gallery or with a limited number of fellow viewers.

In the mid-1960s, James Turrell was inspired by a beam of light from a slide projector while sitting in the darkened room of an undergraduate art history class at Pomona College. The sight provoked a question: what if light wasn’t the tool that enabled people to see something else but rather became the thing people look at? Thus began an inquiry that has led to a vast, prolific career.

James Turrell: A Retrospective comprises works that range in scale from an intimate watercolor made in 1969 to a 5,000-square-foot “Ganzfeld” installation—designed to entirely eliminate the viewer’s depth perception— offering visitors multiple entry points into Turrell’s practice. Evident in the array of works is the artist’s interest in perception, psychology, religion, astronomy, meditation, and science.

The exhibition also draws connections between the artist’s light installations, architectural projects, and his famous masterwork-inprogress at Roden Crater, in the high desert of Arizona. James Turrell: A Retrospective presents the most expansive installation of Roden Crater works shown to date, presented in the form of models, drawings, photographs, holograms, and other documents from the 1980s through the

The work of James Turrell requires a vast amount of exhibition space. James Turrell: A Retrospective presents nearly fifty works exhibited in 33,000 square feet populating two venues across LACMA’s campus: the 2nd floor of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) and the east galleries of the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion (Resnick Pavilion).

BCAM’s east galleries begin with works that Turrell completed at his Mendota Studio in Santa Monica from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, followed by a succession of full-room installations that feature projections, holograms, a “Shallow Space”—a large room designed to challenge a viewer’s depth perception—and a “Cross Corner Projection," in which light is projected in a way that suggests weight and mass. A subsequent gallery contains information and media highlighting a selection of site-specific projects and commissions around the world. BCAM’s west wing is populated with a “Magnatron” work—consisting of an aperture in the shape of an old television screen—followed by three full-scale installations: Key Lime, a “Wedgework” in which the illusion of walls are created through light and architecture; a “Wide Glass,” a type of work that adds a temporal element to Turrell’s light-based installations; and St. Elmo’s Breath, a “Space Division Construction,” which appears to be a flat surface but upon closer inspection reveals itself to be light emitted from a seemingly bottomless cavity in the wall.

Upon entering the Resnick Pavilion, visitors first encounter work that resulted from Turrell’s collaboration with artist Robert Irwin and Dr. Ed Wortz as part of the Art and Technology program at LACMA in 1969, namely a “Perceptual Cell” called Light Reignfall; Dark Matters, a “Dark Space” that presents a seemingly blacked-out room with only a minimally perceivable trace of light; and Breathing Light, a “Ganzfeld.” The Resnick Pavilion also holds an expansive gallery dedicated to the Roden Crater project, including large-scale mixed media drawings and a model contoured with actual cinder from the crater, as well as other models for autonomous spaces.

Born in Los Angeles in 1943 to a Quaker mother and father who was a school administrator, Turrell attended Pomona College, where his studies concentrated on perceptual psychology and astronomy. In 1973 he received a Master's degree in art from Claremont Graduate School. His work is represented in numerous public collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Tate Modern, London; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. The James Turrell Museum opened in Colomé, Argentina in 2009. His solo exhibitions include Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1976); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1980); Israel Museum (1982); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1984); MAK, Vienna (1998–99); Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh (2002–03); Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany (2009–10); and Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture, Moscow (2011).

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