Letter from the Publisher

Welcome to all returning readers and new visitors! I am Rebecca Katherine Levenson, the Founder and Publisher of ArtRKL. This week's Letter from the Publisher examines James Turrell's work and life. 


James Turrell's artistic vision was profoundly shaped by his unique upbringing in a Quaker family in Los Angeles, California. The Quaker community's emphasis on inner light and direct experience laid the foundation for his exploration of light and perception in his art. This early interest was further nurtured through a combination of rigorous academic and practical experiences, including studying perceptual psychology at Pomona College and earning an MFA from Claremont Graduate University.

 

James Turrell installation for the Guggenheim; © David Heald via The Guggenheim

 

Turrell's work, a cornerstone of the Light and Space movement that emerged in Southern California in the 1960s, is a testament to his fascination with light and space. His installations are not mere displays of light, but transformative experiences that challenge viewers' understanding of physical space and their own visual perception. By manipulating light to create a variety of optical phenomena, Turrell invites his audience to see the world in a new light.


His works are characterized by a minimalist approach, utilizing simple forms and clean lines to maximize the impact of light. Turrell's art is deeply rooted in the Quaker belief of seeking inner light, often encouraging contemplation and introspection in his audience.

 

Akhob by James Turrell (2013), image via GARAGE 

 

One of Turrell's most famous works, this installation transformed the Guggenheim Museum's rotunda into a shifting spectrum of colored light, creating a mesmerizing, immersive experience.


Perhaps Turrell's most ambitious project, Roden Crater, is a large-scale installation within a volcanic cinder cone in the Arizona desert. The project, which has been ongoing for decades, is designed to be a monumental observatory that connects visitors with celestial and terrestrial phenomena through the strategic manipulation of light and space.

 

James Turrell, The Roden Crater East Portal via Widewalls


Turrell has created numerous Skyspaces worldwide, specifically designed rooms with an aperture in the ceiling open to the sky. These installations frame the sky and transform the viewer's perception of it through changing light conditions.

 

James Turrell, Green Mountain Falls Skyspace (2022). Photo by Jeff Kearney/TDC Photography, courtesy of Green Box, ©James Turrell

James Turrell has received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to contemporary art, including the Guggenheim Fellowship (1974), MacArthur Fellowship (1984), National Medal of Arts (2013), and induction into the Academy of Arts and Letters (2011).


Turrell's work has profoundly impacted contemporary art, influencing a generation of artists interested in light, space, and perception. His installations offer transformative experiences that push the boundaries of how art can be perceived and experienced. Turrell continues to work on new projects and installations, consistently challenging and expanding the limits of visual and sensory perception.

 

James Turrell,  Bridget’s Bardo at the Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg, Germany, 2009. Photo courtesy James Turrell Studio. © James Turrell

 

Through his innovative use of light and space, James Turrell has established himself as a pivotal figure in the world of contemporary art, creating works that are not just seen but experienced on a profound and personal level.


Thank you,

Rebecca