Photo from LACMA
I've been obsessed with artist James Turrell ever since I heard about the Roden Crater, a gorgeous stretch of land in the Arizona desert Turrell has spent decades turning into a gigantic art installation. Turrell works with light, space, and visual perception in highly unusual ways, and he has turned the cone-shaped remains of an extinct volcano into a labyrinth of rooms and passageways that reshape the underground landscape and sky above in his vision. The Sunday New York Times Magazine published an extensive profile of Turrell and a description of the Roden Crater, complete with a blueprint and photos. The article, which is a great read, only deepened my longing to hit the highway and be moved by such a massive and immersive work of art.
Alas, the Times confirms that you can only visit Turrell's lifework if you're friends with the artist (for now), significantly reducing my chances of getting inside this masterpiece. However, Turrell has three retrospectives opening around the country this summer, so there's a chance to be immersed in his experiments in light and color at three different museums – the Guggenheim in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I'm aiming for the LACMA roadtrip myself.
The LACMA show opened at the end of May and runs through next April, which is good, because tickets to part of the exhibit are already sold out through the fall. Crazy. But the reason for the advance ticket grab is Turrell's work takes time to experience, especially when it comes to his "Perpetual Cell" piece, which requires a waiver promising the guest is sober and sane. LACMA describes the cell as a solo deal, where, "Assisted by an attendant, an individual viewer enters a spherical chamber on a sliding bed. A program of saturated light surrounds the viewer for twelve minutes, allowing the visitor to experience the intense, multidimensional power of light and the complex seeing instrument of the human eye." Tickets for that one are sold out through October, but if you're able to plan in advance, it sounds like the best excuse ever to hit the road to LA.
In the meantime, a brief preview on Turrell and his crater below (or you can visit his "Skyspace" installation, a dome built into a hill in the de Young's sculpture garden).