The Huge Hue Art of James Turrell

A new LACMA exhibit focuses on the artist behind the Arizona crater.

By Alysia Gray Painter
|  Thursday, May 23, 2013  |  Updated 11:37 PM PDT
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The Huge Hue Art of James Turrell

James Turrell

"Bridget's Bardo" by James Turrell. LACMA will present a retrospective of the LA-born artist starting on Sunday, May 26.

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Small art, as in physically wee pieces, has literally come into its own since internet commerce became a thing. Thank etsy or a hundred individually run sites where art lovers can connect with people who paint postage stamp-sized canvases and create sculptures that can fit into a person's palm.

But epic art, on a grand scale, still very much exists, even in this age of minuscule wonders. Artist James Turrell's work is a prime example of this bigness of concept. The SoCal-born, Pomona-educated artist has employed vast spaces and variations of light throughout his career, most notably at Roden Crater in Arizona. Yep, "crater" is correct; the artist has been transforming an extinct volcanic cinder cone into an esoteric and quite massive work of art since the late '70s. And we do mean "transforming"; the site-specific work is ongoing.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is set to launch a major retrospective of Mr. Turrell and his light-space wonders. Nope, the Roden Crater is not being trucked in for the occasion -- that's permanently tied to the Grand Canyon State -- but visitors to the museum will see an impressive model. Other pieces, full of hue and mystery and squares and shape, will fill the second level of BCAM and the Resnick Pavilion. Holograms, illumination with geometric dimension, and marriages of light and color are all on the table.

The retrospective opens on Sunday, May 26 and will remain at the museum for a better part of a year. Closing date? April 6, 2014.

Ticketed separately is the Perceptual Cell. It's a freestanding orb that can only accommodate a single viewer. "A program of saturated light" plays for twelve minutes, providing a deeper, more immersive experience. But here's the rub: Tickets are sold out through July, so book soon. 

Sensory experiences, ones that deal with color, light, and how both relate to the space they fill, don't come more iconic than the ones created by this legend. Bet it'll be a busy year for the exhibit, drawing Turrell fans from all over the world, even as Roden Crater sits silently and timelessly outside Flagstaff, slowly evolving into a nature-meets-light artwork.

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