James Turrell

Los Angeles USA 1943, lives and works in Flagstaff, Arizona

Suite from Aten Reign
Ukiyo-e style woodcuts with relief printing
3 parts, each 66,4 x 47 cm

For his 2013 exhibition at the Guggenheim, Turrell created a major installation entitled Aten Reign, radically transforming the museum in the tradition of his most sweeping, large-scale projects. For the first time, the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed rotunda could be experienced only from below, as a volume of space floating overhead rather than a transparency to be looked across. No objects occupied the rotunda, aside from the structures the artist required to reveal and amplify the luminous nature of the space. Turrell proposed an entirely new encounter with the building, drawing attention away from the boundaries of the built environment toward the interior and fashioning what he has described as “an architecture of space created with light.”

In Aten Reign, daylight from the museum’s oculus streamed down to light the deepest layer of a massive assembly suspended from the ceiling. Using a series of interlocking cones lined with LED fixtures, the installation surrounded this core of daylight with five elliptical rings of shifting, colored light that echoed the banded pattern of the museum’s ramps. As is typical of Turrell’s work, the apparatus that creates the effect is mostly hidden from view, encouraging viewers to interpret what they see by means of their own perception. The work promotes a state of meditative contemplation in a communal viewing space, rekindling the museum’s founding identity as a “temple of spirit,” as articulated by Hilla Rebay, the Guggenheim’s first director and a pioneer in the promotion of nonobjective art. These prints were made following this exhibition.

Video on the Guggenheim show