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James Turrell: In Light

Wednesday, September 22, 2004–Saturday, October 30, 2004

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On the occasion of the installation of the permanent public art work UIC Skyspace on the UIC campus by internationally recognized American artist James Turrell, Gallery 400 is mounting the exhibition James Turrell: In Light. The exhibition includes a major Turrell gallery work from the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, Rayna (1976), which had not been built or exhibited since 1982. The show also features ten Turrell aquatint prints from the portfolio First Light 1989–90.

Located on the Turrell-designed Gateway Plaza on the southwest corner of Chicago ’s Roosevelt Road and Halsted Street, UIC Skyspace is a 30-foot high freestanding elliptical chamber for viewing the complex interplay of sky, light and atmosphere. Inside, visitors can sit on benches lining the perimeter and gaze up toward an opening in the ceiling. The precisely determined 16-foot oculus frames the sky and celestial changes, using light to create a constantly shifting, colorful visual display that brings the space of the sky down to the plane of the building. Turrell has designed numerous other skyspaces in countries around the world, including Italy, Israel, Belgium, England, Japan, and the United States. These autonomous structures contain precisely calculated apertures that facilitate the phenomenon known as “celestial vaulting,” in which the sky appears to be on the same plane as the ceiling. Best viewed at sunrise and sunset, skyspaces are an extraordinary mechanism for vision, encouraging us to examine our powers of perception and our comprehension of the outside world. The strength of Turrell ’s skyspaces lies not purely in an artistic practice, but rather in the way he uses the work to draw together disparate strands of contemporary practice, such as earthwork and public art, with sources and subjects as diverse as architecture, astronomy, and psychology. Through his carefully constructed and controlled environments, Turrell has found a way to engage the emotional, the sensory, and the intellectual, bringing older American artistic traditions concerning nature and the infinite, notably the sublime, into contemporary practice.

“I am really interested in the qualities of one space sensing another. It is like looking at someone looking. Objectivity is gained by being once removed. As you plumb a space with vision, it is possible to ‘see yourself see.’ This seeing, this plumbing, imbues space with consciousness.”

Often ephemeral but always stimulating, Turrell’s oeuvre of perceptual installations, light projections, and skyspaces explore the complex relationship between light and space, often to dramatic effect. As part of the artist’s Space Division Constructions series, Rayna is a room divided into a “sensing space” placed behind a rectangular aperture in the central dividing wall with a viewing space located in front of it. Seemingly opaque at first, the aperture over time dissolves into what seems to be a translucent scrim that reveals the receding space, fog-filled, and of uncertain depth. Using space to expand or enhance perceptions, the works in the Space Division Constructions series explore spatial sensation and perception. Turrell, commenting on what could be seen as the revelatory nature of vision, noted, “I am really interested in the qualities of one space sensing another. It is like looking at someone looking. Objectivity is gained by being once removed. As you plumb a space with vision, it is possible to ‘see yourself see.’ This seeing, this plumbing, imbues space with consciousness.” Deceptively simple, Turrell’s Space Division Constructions are challenging endeavors in individuation and personal awakening. Rayna was first exhibited in 1976 at the Arco Center for Visual Art in Los Angeles.

Part of a collection of twenty, the ten First Light aquatints on display at Gallery 400 represent some of Turrell’s only work in print media. A physical and material record of a projected light moving across a dark room, each print, exquisite and glowing, captures the ephemeral luminescence of flickering light. The aquatints, essentially mediations on light and space, are modeled on Turrell’s early experiments with projected light, as seen in his first corner projection piece Afrum-Proto (1966). Created while a graduate student at the University of California at Irvine, Afrum-Proto is a virtual and illusory projected cube of light. Luminous projections, like that of Afrum-Proto, which Turrell terms “holes in reality,” led to further experimentation with other floating forms, eventually spawning the First Light aquatints. The First Light prints shown at Gallery 400 were from the collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum, WI.

Already known worldwide for his perceptual installations and luminous projections, Turrell has recently become nearly iconic, due to mounting interest in his monumental observatory Roden Crater, located in the Painted Desert about forty miles north of Flagstaff, AZ. Within Roden Crater, a massive undertaking almost thirty years in the making, Turrell constructed a series of underground tunnels and skyspaces in order to capture and frame the celestial grandeur of the desert sky. The subject of over 140 solo exhibitions worldwide, Turrell’s work can be seen in permanent installations at The Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, and The Nasher Sculpture Garden, Dallas. Various major museums, including The Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh; The Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, Germany; The Museum of Fine Art, Houston, and PS1, Long Island City, NY also represent works by the light and space artist. The recipient of countless grants and awards, including a fellowship from the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Turrell is truly an international figure of great cultural and artistic importance. Also a pilot and cattle rancher, the artist currently lives in Arizona.

A catalogue with texts by Dean Judith Kirshner of the College of Architecture and the Arts, among others, and edited by Maureen Pskowski accompanied James Turrell: In Light and the UlC Skyspace installation. Additionally, in March 2005, the College hosted a symposium on aesthetic and scientific ideas related to UlC Skyspace. James Turrell also lectured in the premiere Richard and Mary Gray College of Architecture and the Arts Distinguished Speaker ’s Lecture.

ARTIST BIOGRAPHY

James Turrell Head ShotJames Turrell (born 1943) focused on psychology and mathematics at Pomona College. It was only later, in graduate school, did he pursue art. Turrell ’s work involves explorations in light and space that speak to viewers without words, impacting the eye, body, and mind with the force of a spiritual awakening. Informed by his studies in perceptual psychology and optical illusions, Turrell ’s work allows us to see ourselves “seeing.” Whether harnessing the light at sunset or transforming the glow of a television set into a fluctuating portal, Turrell ’s art places viewers in a realm of pure experience. Situated near the Grand Canyon and Arizona ’s Painted Desert is Roden Crater, an extinct volcano the artist has been transforming into a celestial observatory for the past thirty years. Working with cosmological phenomena that have interested man since the dawn of civilization and have prompted responses such as Stonehenge and the Mayan calendar, Turrell ’s crater brings the heavens down to earth, linking the actions of people with the movements of planets and distant galaxies. His fascination with the phenomena of light is ultimately connected to a very personal, inward search for mankind ’s place in the universe. Influenced by his Quaker faith, which he characterizes as having a “straightforward, strict presentation of the sublime,” Turrell ’s art prompts greater self-awareness through a similar discipline of silent contemplation, patience, and meditation. His ethereal installations enlist the common properties of light to communicate feelings of transcendence and the Divine. James Turrell is a recipient of several prestigious awards such as Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships. He was born in Los Angeles and revceived an MFA in art from Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, CA.

EXHIBITION CHECKLIST

James Turrell

Acro, 1989–90
From the portfolio First Light

Aquatint, 39 1/8 x 27 3/8 in. (plate), 42 1/2 x 30 1/8 in. (sheet)

Carn, 1989–90
From the portfolio First Light
Aquatint, 39 1/8 x 27 3/8 in. (plate), 42 1/2 x 30 1/8 in. (sheet)

Decker, 1989–90
From the portfolio First Light

Aquatint, 39 1/8 x 27 3/8 in. (plate), 42 1/2 x 30 1/8 in. (sheet)

Fargo, 1989–90
From the portfolio First Light

Aquatint, 39 1/8 x 27 3/8 in. (plate), 42 1/2 x 30 1/8 in. (sheet)

Joecar, 1989–90
From the portfolio First Light

Aquatint, 39 1/8 x 27 3/8 in. (plate), 42 1/2 x 30 1/8 in. (sheet)

Juke, 1989–90
From the portfolio First Light

Aquatint, 39 1/8 x 27 3/8 in. (plate), 42 1/2 x 30 1/8 in. (sheet)

Meeting, 1989–90
From the portfolio First Light

Aquatint, 39 1/8 x 27 3/8 in. (plate), 42 1/2 x 30 1/8 in. (sheet)

Ondoe, 1989–90
From the portfolio First Light

Aquatint, 39 1/8 x 27 3/8 in. (plate), 42 1/2 x 30 1/8 in. (sheet)

Phantom, 1989–90
From the portfolio First Light

Aquatint, 39 1/8 x 27 3/8 in. (plate), 42 1/2 x 30 1/8 in. (sheet)

Rayna, 1979
Wood framing, sheet rock, and wood, 156 x 408 x 264 in. (outside), 155 x 408 x 144 in. (inside)

Sloan, 1989–90
From the portfolio First Light
Aquatint, 39 1/8 x 27 3/8 in. (plate), 42 1/2 x 30 1/8 in. (sheet)

EXHIBITION SUPPORT

James Turrell: In Light is supported by the College of Architecture and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago; Howard and Donna Stone; Penny Pritzker and Brian Traubert; the Graham Foundation for Advanced Study in the Fine Arts; the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Special assistance was provided by the Art Institute of Chicago and the Milwaukee Art Museum.

PRESS RELEASE

James Turrell
In Light

Gallery 400
Chicago, IL
September 7–October 30, 2004

Opening Reception: Wednesday, September 15, 2004, 5–8 pm

On the occasion of the installation of the permanent public artwork UIC Skyspace on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus by internationally recognized American artist James Turrell, Gallery 400 of the College of Architecture and the Arts is exhibiting a major Turrell gallery work from the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, Rayna (1976), which has not been built or exhibited since 1982. The show at Gallery 400 is on view from September 7 until October 30, 2004 and will also feature ten Turrell aquatint prints from the portfolio First Light 1989–90.

Often ephemeral but always stimulating, Turrell’s oeuvre of perceptual installations, light projections, and skyspaces explore the complex relationship between light and space, often to dramatic effect. As part of the artist ’s Space Division Constructions series, Rayna is a room divided into a “sensing space” behind a rectangular aperture in the central dividing wall and a viewing space in front of it. Seemingly opaque at first, the aperture over time dissolves into what seems to be a translucent scrim that reveals the receding space, fog-filled, and of uncertain depth. Using space to expand or enhance perceptions, the works in the Space Division Constructions series explore spatial sensation and perception. Turrell, commenting on what could be seen as the revelatory nature of vision, notes “l am really interested in the qualities of one space sensing another. It is like looking at someone looking. Objectivity is gained by being once removed. As you plumb a space with vision, it is possible to see yourself see. This seeing, this plumbing, imbues space with consciousness.” Deceptively simple, Turrell’s Space Division Constructions are challenging endeavors in individuation and personal awakening. Rayna was first exhibited in 1976 at the Arco Center for Visual Art in Los Angeles.

Part of a collection of twenty, the ten First Light aquatints on display at Gallery 400 represent some of Turrell’s only work in print media. A physical and material record of a projected light moving across a dark room, each print, exquisite and glowing, captures the ephemeral luminescence of flickering light. The aquatints, essentially mediations on light and space, are modeled on Turrell’s early experiments with projected light, as seen in his first corner projection piece Afrum-Proto (1966). Created while a graduate student at the University of California at Irvine, Afrum-Proto is a virtual and illusory projected cube of light. Luminous projections, like that of Afrum-Proto, which Turrell terms “holes in reality,” led to further experimentation with other floating forms, eventually spawning the First Light aquatints. The First Light prints shown at Gallery 400 are from the collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum, where the entire First Light portfolio was shown earlier this year.

Already known worldwide for his perceptual installations and luminous projections, Turrell has recently become nearly iconic, due to mounting interest in his monumental observatory Roden Crater, located in the Painted Desert about forty miles north of Flagstaff, AZ. Within Roden Crater, a massive undertaking almost thirty years in the making, a series of underground tunnels and skyspaces will capture and frame the celestial grandeur of the desert sky. The subject of over 140 solo exhibitions worldwide, Turrell’s work can be seen in permanent installations at The Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, and The Nasher Sculpture Garden, Dallas. Various major museums. including The Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh; The Museum fur Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, Germany; The Museum of Fine Art, Houston; and PS1, Long Island City, NY also represent works by the light and space artist. The recipient of countless grants and awards, including a fellowship from the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Turrell is truly an international figure of great cultural and artistic importance. Also a pilot and cattle rancher, the artist currently lives in Arizona.

A catalogue with texts by Dean Judith Kirshner of the College of Architecture and the Arts and others, and edited by Maureen Pskowski, will accompany James Turrell: In Light and the UIC Skyspace installation. Additionally, in March 2005, the College will host a symposium on aesthetic and scientific ideas related to UIC Skyspace.

James Turrell: In Light is supported by Howard and Donna Stone; Penny Pritzker and Brian Traubert; the Graham Foundation for Advanced Study in the Fine Arts; the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Special assistance has been provided by the Art Institute of Chicago and the Milwaukee Art Museum.