James Turrell Uses Light to Transform the Guggenheim Museum

East, Newsletter
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
James Turrell Rendering for Aten Reign, 2013 Daylight and LED light Site-specific installation, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York  © James Turrell Rendering: Andreas Tjeldflaat, 2012 © SRGF

Rendering of James Turrell’s Aten Reign at Guggenheim Museum. (Courtesy Andreas Tjeldflaat)

Beginning June 21, visitors of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum will get the unusual opportunity to experience Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic rotunda like never before. American artist James Turrell is transforming the legendary space with his favorite medium: light. As visitors navigate the spiraling gallery they may feel disoriented. With each step, their perception of the illuminated space will change dramatically, as colorful influxes of artificial and natural light dynamically shift around the rotunda. Throughout this site-specific work, titled Aten Reign, Turrell offers visitors a subjective viewing experience. Each observer will see his or her own vision of the space depending on the location in which they stand, as well as the way in which fluctuating shadows and illuminations highlight their surroundings. Four of Turrell’s other works will accompany the core light installation.


The work employs both daylight and LEDs. (Courtesy Andreas Tjeldflaat)

Turrell, who has an academic background in perceptual psychology, has based his entire career on the use of light and space to create installations that play with one’s perceptions. Aten Reign is reminiscent of his Skyspace series, made in the 1970s, in which he invited visitors into an enclosed room, with benches lining the interior walls and a skylight opening allowing natural light to enter from the roof. The Skyspace experience varied dramatically according to the time of day and the change of seasons.

Aten Reign will be the artist’s first solo exhibition in a New York museum since 1980. Before arriving in the city it will first appear at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on May 26th, and then at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston starting on June 9th. The Guggenheim showing will mark the conclusion of the coast to coast voyage, and will be on view from June 21 to September 25.


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