James Turrell in Lech, 2014, Foto: Maria Muxel

James Turell

At dawn, the magical installation of the renowned light artist unfolds it full beauty.

James Turrell – the light artist

James Tur­rell is one of the most sig­nif­i­cant artists of the present. His atmos­pher­ic instal­la­tions revolve around the sen­su­al and spir­i­tu­al per­cep­tion of light. The artist’s light rooms are soft com­po­si­tions that enable visu­al and emo­tion­al expe­ri­ences for the vis­i­tors, and the Sky­space-Lech embod­ies this idea. The com­bi­na­tion of build­ing and land­scape, cul­ture and nature- the man­made and the nat­ur­al- form the start­ing point for inten­sive per­son­al expe­ri­ences and observations.

  • James Turrell

    Light is not so much something that reveals, as it is itself the revelation.

James Turrell, Lichtinstallation Kunsthaus Bregenz 1997 © Kunsthaus Bregenz Foto: Gerald Zugmann

Life & Work

James Turrell lives and works in Flagstaff (Arizona/ US).

James Turrell was born in 1943 in Los Angeles as the son of devout Quaker parents. By the age of 16, he had already acquired a pilot’s license and shown a deep curiosity for the sky. While having initially studied Psychology and Mathematics at Pomona College, he ultimately graduated from his studies in Art at the Claremont Graduate School in California in 1973. Since the 1960s, Turrell has been conceptualizing Lightrooms, predominately as big cubes with openings to the sky, often in buildings specifically constructed for the purpose. At the Roden Crater, an extinct volcano in the desert of Arizona, James Turrell initiated the biggest manmade piece of art in history. Taking into consideration astronomical calculations, he constructed a web of Skyspaces in the center of the crater, in which natural and artificial light unite to create a unique sensual experience. The Skyspace-Lech also follows this artistic conception.

In Vorarlberg, one of James Turrell’s spectacular light installations was already visible on the glass facade of the Kunsthaus Bregenz. More specifically, in 1997, he lit up the museum building designed by the renowned architect Peter Zumthor as a lighthouse of Art.

About 15 years later, in 2013, the artist transformed the Salamon R. Guggenheim museum in New York into an atmospheric light room with his artwork “Aten Reign”. Large scale retrospectives followed in the Los Angeles Museum of Art (LACMA) and the National Gallery of Australia (2014).

In 2018, a James Turrell exhibition is scheduled in the Frieder Burda museum in Baden-Baden, from the 9th of June until the 28th of October.

Skyspaces – lightrooms open to the sky

James Turrell’s works on the Sky­spaces start­ed in the 1970s. In these instal­la­tions, nat­ur­al and arti­fi­cial light as well as col­or and space meet and open the spir­it of con­tem­pla­tive obser­va­tion. This series encom­pass­es more than 75 pub­licly acces­si­ble sky obser­va­to­ries world­wide. Tur­rell devel­oped the Sky­spaces as autonomous struc­tures, as well as with­in exist­ing build­ings. Through the spe­cif­ic cul­tur­al and spir­i­tu­al con­text of the sky, the artist opens up a spir­i­tu­al perspective.

Sky, light, space, and time melt into a phys­i­cal­ly sen­su­al and men­tal­ly exis­ten­tial expe­ri­ence. In the time of fast and super­fi­cial­ly con­sumed pic­tures, these vari­ables lead view­ers in to a med­i­ta­tive frame of mind as they immerse them­selves in the experience.

Roden Crater – the sky above the dessert

Since the 1970s, the artist has worked on his life’s work, an extin­guished crater in Ari­zona that is com­prised of tun­nels, under­ground spaces and so called “Sky­spaces”, or roof-open­ings in the sky. The area around the “Roden Crater”, a land­scape between the Grand Canyon and the Paint­ed Desert, was found and pur­chased by the artist in 1974 after months of search­ing by plane. Since then, Tur­rell has been trans­form­ing the vol­canic cone by lev­el­ing the crater edge, dig­ging tun­nels, and build­ing plat­forms. Cham­bers, shafts, and open­ings point towards the sky, guid­ing the light. Tur­rell exten­sive­ly refers to sites such as Machu Pic­chu, the Pyra­mids of Egypt, or the Tem­ples of Yucatan, high­light­ing espe­cial­ly the spir­i­tu­al and emo­tion­al expe­ri­ences that humans encounter at these sights.