Druggiest Museum Exhibit (Without Having To Actually Do Drugs) of 2014: “James Turrell: A Retrospective” at LACMA

Fifty years of light and space.

American artist James Turrell is the foremost exemplar of the visual art field called the Southern California Light and Space movement. This year’s retrospective exhibit at LA’s County Museum of Art presented over 50 years’ worth of his experiments with light and the way it can be perceived, altered, and inferred. Paired with a New York Times Magazine cover story and a special exhibit last year in the rotunda of Manhattan’s Guggenheim, it helped to introduce the world at large to the master’s work.

James Turrell, Bridget’s Bardo, 2009, Ganzfeld, Installation view at Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany, 2009, © James Turrell, Photo © Florian Holzherr

James Turrell, Bridget’s Bardo, 2009, Ganzfeld, Installation view at
Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany, 2009, © James Turrell, photo © Florian Holzherr

In Turrell’s art, the light does the work for you, leaving your mind to question what you are seeing as truth or fiction. His Perceptual Cell series envelops the viewer in a one-at-a-time private show, and other exhibits encourage the viewer to walk through or simply sit and stare. The LACMA show featured some of his earliest light experiments (some of which were formed by cutting actual holes into the walls and ceiling of his residence) as well as holograms, room-sized walk-thrus, and even topographic models and maps of his piece-de-resistance, the ever-evolving and as-yet unfinished Roden Crater in the extinct cinder cone of a volcano in Arizona. Fans—stoners, art aficionados, school kids, tourists…often one and the same—flocked to LACMA each day for months, and Perceptual Cell tickets sold out in record time. Turr’nt up.—Pat McGuire


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