Beginning to See the Light: James Turrell at the Guggenheim

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I have heard it said that a mid-day remedy for tired eyes, strained from staring into a computer monitor, strained from days spent in an office aglow with fluorescent light, is to stare instead at a screen of pure color: a tonal palate cleanser. I don’t know. I have tried this only once. I was surrounded by strangers in the atrium of the Guggenheim Museum. It sounds like the beginning of a dream… I was not sure how long I was supposed to stare into the light for, having never actually heard the end of that anecdotal prescription but when I tried it, I didn’t want to stop.

Over the summer on a particularly hot and hazy New York afternoon, I made my way uptown for a much-hyped exhibit by the well-known installation artist, James Turrell. Since the late 1960s James Turrell has practiced art solely through the medium of light. This newest work at the GuggenheimAten Reignis thought specifically for the notorious rotunda of the museum. Visitors will find a completely transformed space, manipulated by both natural and artificial light. It is an invitation to slow their pace, get closer to their senses and perceive the physical experience of light. According to the artist, “…light has the most power without image. My work has no image, no object, no focus. So what do you have left? A lot.”

I found it refreshing; it felt like meditation or the start of hypnosis (I imagine). I focused on my breathing. I still think about it on crowded subway rides, providing just a quick moment of inner calm, a nice memory that feels very quiet. Should you find yourself in the city, eyes bleary, the exhibit closes next week.

James Turrell, Aten Reign at the Guggenheim June 21–September 25, 2013.

~ Jamie

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