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Editor’s View: The Light

If you’re interested in video, that means you’re probably interested in light—how it’s received and perceived. So if you are, treat yourself to one of the three James Turrell retrospectives happening this summer. There’s one at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, another at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and a third at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

“Bridget’s Bardo,” 2009, James Turrell. Photo by Florian Holzherr

There are certain painters—Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Vermeer—you tend to study for a better understanding of light, and there are certain films—The Conformist, Barry Lyndon, Citizen Kane—you tend to watch and re-watch for a better understanding of light.

James Turrell’s installations are completely absorbing, allowing you to really (and I mean really) study the light. “The theme of light has preoccupied artists for centuries,” explains Michael Govan, exhibition co-curator and Wallis Annenberg director of LACMA. “No one, however, has so fully considered the ‘thing-ness’ of light itself, as well as how the experience of light reflects the wondrous and complex nature of human perception, as James Turrell has for nearly five decades.”

These three exhibitions include geometric light projections, installations exploring sensory deprivation and colored light, and his two-dimensional holograms. In Los Angeles, you can book an appointment inside Turrell’s Light Reignfall, a freestanding enclosed structure that is designed for one viewer at a time. A program of saturated light, operated by a technician, surrounds the viewer for 12 minutes, allowing each visitor to experience what the museum calls the “intense, multidimensional power of light and the complex seeing instrument of the human eye.” My appointment for Light Reignfall isn’t until October, and I’m 80 percent confident I won’t come out of it like Altered States. But you never know.

See our gallery of Turrell’s work here.