Up until about 3 months ago James Turrell was unknown to me. Quite how I managed to miss one of the major artists of the 21st century is beyond me but I admit I did. Only when reading the excellent collection of essays on artists by Calvin Tomkins did I discover about the Light and Space movement in which he is a leading light( sorry I couldn’t resist it).
Many of you will also doubtless not have heard of him but you will have seen his influence if like millions around the world you have seen the video for Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling’ which wantonly rips of Turrell’s style (apparently Drake and Turrell are ‘cool with each other’)
There was a major retrospective of the artists work at the Guggenheim a few years ago, which if had known about him I could have seen.
I discovered that epic fail could be made up for in part by a journey to MOMA PS1 in Long Island City where there is one permanent piece by Turrell on display.
It is worth the price of admission. It’s called ‘Meeting’
What it consists of is a square 20 by 20 room with wooden seating lining the walls. It’s reminiscent of church pews and indeed Turrell was brought up Quaker and the minimal design reflects that. The walls and ceiling are white.
However when you look up to the ceiling you note a large rectangle has been cut out of it, through which you can see the sky.
I went on a beautiful clear New York day so that sky was a shattering, pure blue. The whole effect was meditative but at the same time strangely exciting. Go in the evenings and you will be able to watch the sunset accompanied by a simple light display created by Turrell.
I can think of nothing I’ve seen recently that was more beautiful. It makes us sit still for once and contemplate the world we live in and the nature of seeing itself.