James Turrell: ramblings
A snaking line at the entrance of any museum or art event raises anticipation and eagerness and there was one fit to order right down the sidewalk of Museum Mile this morning when I walked into Guggenheim to experience the muchJames Turrell: ramblings written about James Turrell: the master of light! I booked my ticket way ahead of time and got them delivered to my house so I was able to walk right past the lines at the ticket counter…I walked in eagerly only to stumble upon rows of bodies laying on the floor absorbing the concentric oval rings of light changing color. There were many who were standing and along with observing the exhibit there was much people gazing happening as well…next I walked past to the rest of the show…and in one dark room there was one lit rectangle close to the floor – all white and crisp, into another dark room with only a strip of light expanding from floor to ceiling and silhouetted against it was a young father, visitor at the gallery, baby strapped to the front of his body, stepping cautiously towards the strip of light only to be reprimanded by the standing guard whose sole responsibility was to guard that strip of light at the corner of the room. After passing yet another dark room with some more rectangular displays, a floating box wedged against the corner of a room caught my eyes! Well, that too was a creation of light along with it there were a number of similar etched images, of white boxes on an otherwise dark corner of a room. When I emerged out of that room feeling a bit like the emperor and his new clothes, there was Cezanne, and Gauguin and Seurat and Lautrec in a well lit room!
For one, the tangible nature of these impressionistic paintings felt comforting after experiencing art that would all but disappear with the flick of a switch. Also a reminder of how the Impressionists rendered light as opposed to their predecessors before the advent of the camera, made me aware of how new and unique the idea of a temporary art practice offering an experience of light must be! So I walked into a reading room and leafed through a couple of coffee table books on Turrell’s work. The photographs, which were in color, mostly round, oval or rectangular, resonated somewhat of Rothko works. Beautiful! There is no doubt that Turrell’s work is extremely photogenic! The counter experience happened to me very recently when I experienced the works of Toyin Odutola, which are outstanding in person! Photographs don’t do justice to the intricacies of the sinuous details of his plates and prints. While walking out of the museum and into the busy street on a gorgeous sunny day I reflected on how Turrell worked in his isolated circular barn-like windowless structure in the middle of a desert and an extinguished volcano, the trials and tribulations of most of the impressionistic painters. For the audience, is it safe to say that beauty is an adaptive effort enjoyed in experiencing something that is well done? Did I just experience beauty at the Guggenheim? If I had to consider the words of Denis Dutton as to what is beauty, “Beauty is a way that evolution has of arousing and sustaining interest or fascination, even obsession in order to encourage us towards making the most adaptive decisions towards mating and reproduction.” I’d say, hmm, really?