Light and Space

March 25th, 2017

James Turrell. Breathing Light, 2013. LED light into space, Dimensions variable. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Kayne Griffin Corcoran and the Kayne Foundation. M.2013.1. Copyright James Turrell. Photo copyright Florian Holzherr.
James Turrell. Breathing Light, 2013. LED light into space, Dimensions variable. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Kayne Griffin Corcoran and the Kayne Foundation. M.2013.1. Copyright James Turrell. Photo copyright Florian Holzherr.

March 25th, 2017


My earliest art memory still feels immediate in my mind. I was maybe 15 years old, and my percussion teacher at the time, Peter Ehrmann, had taken me to see an installation at the Denver Art Museum that he thought I should experience. He told me nothing about what it was I would see.

We sat at one end of an almost completely dark room, with just some incidental lights to the sides. He urged me to stay still, focused on the far wall. We sat for maybe 10 minutes, and slowly, a faint rectangle began to appear on that wall, just slightly brighter and more blue than the wall around it. The rectangle felt vibrant but verged on imperceptible. Eventually we walked up to it, and stood just inches away, entranced by the glowing rectangle. As we stood there, gazing at this barely visible color field, he stuck out his arm, punching through the wall, revealing the mechanism.

This was one of James Turrell’s ‘Space Division’ works, and it wasn’t a wall at all, but an opening to a whole new world. This simple act exploded everything for me, and looking back, set me on my current aesthetic path.

When I began to study with La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela in 2003 I was suddenly in the presence of a new modality. Marian’s works with light are visceral in a way I’m sure resonated with Turrell. Her environments are filled with color that sings at a high vibration along with La Monte’s music, but the forms within feel natural, organic, free, where Turrell’s are rigid but soft.

The thing that really entrances me to Marian’s light works, and particularly her Imagic Light series, is the way they deal with time. They are simultaneously static and ever-changing. Her mobiles rotate with the vibrations in the air, coming in and out of any number of symmetries and similarities at a pace that draws your attention to the fact that they are moving in response to the environment. Their deceptively simple relationships are so complex and powerful that they take time to unpack, to understand what’s happening in the space, and why.

Whereas Turrell’s work often rewards time with a single ecstatic moment (the puncturing of the artifice of the wall, or a flash of a Ganzfeld effect), Marian’s work exists within time, much like a piece of music or the waves of the ocean.


See Also:
Meeting | news item | November, 2016
Abstract | news item | February, 2017
On Perception | news item | April, 2017
Recording The Four Pillars | news item | August, 2016
Transit Festival in Leuven | news item | October, 2016
A Cageian Dream | news item | January, 2013
Epiphany | news item | April, 2017