It’s the Eye…
… No, it’s the mind. No, it’s the mind’s eye. The James Turrell exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opens all three–eye, mind, mind’s eye, and leaves the visitor… well, ecstatic, if ecstasy is understood as ec-stasis, a knocking out of inertia into a dizzying sense of infinite expansion. For decades now, Turrell has been the acknowledged master of the use of light as a medium to create space, and this long-needed show serves to demonstrate that mastery.
I’d be tempted to call him a magician, if he weren’t such a consummate craftsman and technician in the science of light: his effects seem magical, mind-bending, ethereal. Behind the “seens”, they are practical experiments in physics, geometry, and architecture.
The mind, in the small world of busy-ness we have created for it, tends in our daily lives to focus on the small stuff. Turrell’s work transports us out of that world, freeing the mind from its tethers and into a dimension where there is no beginning or end, nor even a middle, but pure spaciousness, where the spirit experiences the sense of being “home free.” (The attempt to put it into words inevitably results in sounding pretty silly!) The exhibition extends through two of LACMA’s pavilions: it’s a maze of spaces, some large, some relatively small, into each of which the visitor is invited for a different perceptual experience. Color entrances, overwhelms, consumes us, seducing the mind into spaces that deny us the usual comforts of definition and shape. We are not mere spectators, we are participants in the abstract, immeasurable realm of beauty.
There is also full documentation of his ambitious work at Roden Crater - a site that is not yet open to the public even after decades of planning and construction. It promises to be a landmark monument in the astrophysical tradition of Stonehenge and other monuments to humanity’s efforts to locate our Earth in the context of the universe.