James Turrell Roden Crater Review
Two years ago, not long after he turned 45, Ed Sweeney made a list of things to do before he died. Take his wife to Machu Picchu. Take his young son to see the space shuttle launch. And, what is proving to be most challenging, visit the Roden Crater, an extinct volcano northeast of Flagstaff, Ariz., that James Turrell has been transforming into a work of perceptual and celestial art since the late 1970s.
His creation, Roden Crater, is a masterwork of light and perception inside a dormant volcano. A new and innovative partnership between Turrell and Arizona State University will help complete the artist’s magnum opus on the edge of the Painted Desert, making it accessible to many more people in the future and developing an academic component for Turrell to share his artistic vision and inspire transdisciplinary approaches to creativity. The enterprise seeks to raise at least $200 million to preserve Turrell’s legacy by building infrastructure at the site, including a visitor center, and ensure conservation of one of the nation’s most renowned cultural assets. ASU and the Skystone Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money and operates Roden Crater, are in the midst of a yearlong planning process, funded by an anonymous gift of $1.8 million, to determine the scope of the project and pilot academic programs. An online course is now being developed with Turrell, and four lab courses are under way this spring in which ASU students will visit the site. This one project is one of the best examples of an interdisciplinary exploration that we have,” he said. “It’s a remarkable artistic and aesthetic expression, a remarkable feat of engineering, a remarkably reflective and contemplative space in a world that seems to be very hurried. It takes you out of your normal routine and puts you into a transformational space to experience the world.” Tepper, who is helping lead the yearlong planning process, said that when completed, the project will be the first significant academic enterprise built around a singular piece of art. “We saw all the ways it could connect with so many of our disciplines: sustainability, archeology, geology, astronomy, tourism, landscape architecture,” he said. The project evolved after Turrell invited ASU President Michael Crow to the site last year to discuss a partnership. Michael Govan, president of the Skystone Foundation, is the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Last year, ASU entered into a partnership with LACMA to increase diversity among museum professionals.
The exploration of the artist's work is done by examining how his fascination for the immaterial luminescent entity sparked in him curiosity since he was a small child, and never abandoned him up until the present day. The approach is clear cut and focuses on an array of Turrell's works: Space Division Constructions, Skyspaces, Ganzfelds, the Atein Reign and Roden Crater (James Turrell: A Retrospective). His treatment of colour and light are linked to his passionate research in the fields of spirituality, philosophy, psychology and science, from optics to astronomy: Plato's Allegory of the Cave, Chinese Taoist Lao-Tau's theory of practicing eternity, and the book Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint by Franz Bretano. Furthermore, Turrell's work is associated to that of other artists such as: Dan Flavin, Joseph Albers, Mark Rothko, Max Ernst. Specific arguments stem from a conversation with gallerist Francesca Minini and first hand visits to James Turrell's exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum of New York and at /lVilla Panza di Biumo in Varese, Italy. James Turrell creates an impact on the viewer through the use of light of different / intensities and colour, along with the meticulous study of spaces that appear perceptually altered, shaped and manipulated by the immaterial entity. This creates an effect on the viewer, both visually and emotionally. James Turrell was a main proponent of the Light and Space movement in Southern California during the 1960's and 70's. In his work he uses light to manipulate space like no one before. His creations are not only what you perceive through your senses, but an experience that goes beyond materiality and face value (Sutton, Benjamin, 2014).
As can be seen, the cusp, or threshold, between light and darkness, and between what we believe and what we perceive – that moment when we realise something isn’t flat when we thought it was, or that it is static when we thought it was moving – are the moments Turrell manages to suspend us in, sometimes for surreally extended periods of time. Turrell’s art reveals the multifaceted dimensions of his own life. But by pairing things back to a single element – light – his work becomes a window into a state of being beyond words. “This wonderful elixir of light is the thing that actually connects the immaterial with the material,” says the artist. “That connects the cosmic to the plain everyday existence that we try to live in.”
"James Turrell: A Retrospective." Los Angeles County Museum of Art. LACMA, n.d. Web. 23 June 2014.
"James Turrell and Frank Lloyd Wright's Shared Vision at the Guggenheim." YouTube. YouTube, 3 July 2013. Web. 21 June 2014.
"Josef Albers Study for Homage to the Square 1964." 'Study for Homage to the Square', Josef Albers: Display Caption. TATE, Dec. 2012. Web. 22 June 2014.
Sutton, Benjamin. "In the Air- Art+Auction's Gossip Column." Wanna Visit Roden Crater? You Just Need to Complete the 82-Stop Tour De Turrell. Blouin Artinfo, 31 July 2013. Web. 22 June 2014.