Tuesday, September 28, 2010

James Turrell

James Turrell is a conceptual artist. His medium of choice is light. I had the great opportunity to see a collection of his works on permanent display at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, PA.

The first time he exhibited any of his light sculptures was in 1967 at the Pasadena Art Museum. He was the first artist to use light in the way that he did. There have of course been other conceptual artists to use light in their work - Dan Flavin comes to mind. But what is different about James Turrell is that he doesn't just use light, he sculpts it, creates spaces in which to sculpt it and thus play with our perception of not only the space but the light itself. Light, like anything, is a sign and it signifies something to us. Turrell uses it in such a way that he changes how we can perceive what the light is telling us.

If you ever have the chance to see a Turrell work, you will not be disappointed. Conceptual art may be difficult to understand and sometimes to appreciate too, however these pieces also carry a scientific element making them simultaneously more accessible as well as ever more brilliant and confounding.

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