With shows in LA, Manhattan and Houston, famed light and space artist James Turrell is having a moment in the spotlight. Hunter Drohojowska-Philp talks to the artist about how he alters reality in a “perceptual cell,” and Frances Anderton learns about how he shaped the design of the new Kayne Griffin Corcoran gallery. With Maggie Kayne, Bill Griffin, Matthew Flynn and Silvia Kuhle. Also, a reminder of the living modernism of A. Quincy Jones, now in focus at the Hammer Museum.
James Turrell Shapes Perception
LACMA is currently showing a retrospective of 50 years of work by James Turrell; the Guggenheim in Manhattan is about to open a show in which the light and space artist drenches the interior of Frank Lloyd Wright’s rotunda (rendering, above); The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will shortly open James Turrell: The Light Inside.
Meanwhile his LA gallery, Kayne Griffin Corcoran, has launched its new space at 1201 South La Brea avenue with Sooner Than Later, Roden Crater, a show of drawings, photographs charting his four-decade work on his Roden Crater project. The exhibition also includes a Meditation Room, from his “Perceptual Cells” series, one of which can also be found at LACMA.
DnA got to try out the Meditation Room, where one lies back on a bench and experiences almost 20 minutes of darting light in depthless space. With the light perceptible both with eyes open and shut, it’s a trippy experience without drugs.
KCRW’s Hunter Drohojowska-Philp actually got to interview the artist in the space, while he rested there. He talked about how he changes perception with light; and he also traced his work to the history of light in art, dating back to ancient religious spaces, saying “Sometimes we’ve had paintings about light. . . and I was just interested in using light, directly. . . it’s a simple American idea, but it has its power.”
James Turrell Shapes Space
In addition to the work on display at Kayne Griffin Corcoran, the artist also had a strong hand in the creation of the gallery space itself.
The new Kayne Griffin Corcoran gallery is at 1201 South Brea, south of the new cluster of La Brea and Highland galleries, in a stretch of shabby, low-slung commercial and industrial buildings. The building was a 40s-era trussed, industrial space set back from the street by its parking lot. With Standard architecture firm, helmed by Jeffrey Allsbrook and Silvia Kuhle (shown, from left to right: Maggie Kayne, Silvia Kuhle, Bill Griffin, Matthew Flynn), and an assist from the artist himself, it has been transformed into a hidden oasis that manages to combine Southern Californian flowing openness with extreme European elegance.
Visitors arrive at an ivy-covered, walled exterior and enter through black steel gates onto a grassy courtyard, and from there through huge pivoting doors into skylit white spaces, where the trusses have been concealed and sky light is funneled in by cones extending up and making the space seem both larger and grander, and more museum-like.
The transition from outside to inside, from street to courtyard to gallery, got some input from James Turrell, who, according to KGC partner Bill Griffin, had a hand in details right down to “calling out the Brazilian Silk tree.” Turrell also suggested artists should be able to manipulate the light quality — through controlling a mix of LED and natural light delivered from the skylights. And he turned the conference room into one of his famed “skyspaces.”
When I meet the gallerists and designers, we talked while lying back on black recliners designed by Turrell, around a square black marble conference table, as a celestial glow above us mutated from pink to orange to blue (Bill Griffin, left, and Maggie Kayne, in their sky space-conference room, shown below).
This added an intriguing and slightly soporific distraction to the conversation, not to mention a hyperawareness of people’s skin tone — as faces changed from pallid to rosy to bluish to soft and warm depending on the shade above.
To hear more about changing perceptions — and reality — from Turrell, the gallerists and the architects, listen to this show. And hear more about Hunter’s visit, on this segment.
The James Turrell retrospective is on show at LACMA through April next year, and Sooner Than Later, Roden Crater is at Kayne Griffin Corcoran gallery through July 6. Access to the meditation room is by appointment only.
See images of his work and find more information on James Turrell at his newly launched web site, which shows representations of more than 150 artworks.
Building for Better Living
Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A. show has just opened and this time it is a retrospective of one architect’s work (most PSTP shows are thematic) whose hand changed the lives of many through designs for Modern living that were comfortable and desirable while efficient and affordable. A. Quincy Jones: Building for Better Living, at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, showcases some of the 1000s of projects by A. Quincy Jones, including the gorgeous Crestwood Hills residential development in Brentwood — originally conceived for a group of progressive-minded movie musicians and their friends — and the Brody House in Holmby Hills. Ellen Donnelly is a Curatorial Fellow at the Hammer Museum and tells DnA why A. Quincy Jones matters.
A. Quincy Jones: Building for Better Living will run through September 8th.