Houston – James Turrell: “The Light Inside” at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Through September 22nd, 2013

August 10th, 2013

James Turrell, Tycho White: Single Wall Projection, (1967), Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, © James Turrell

Part of his ongoing retrospective spanning three cities and upwards of 92,000 square feet of exhibition space, American artist James Turrell has brought several of his iconic light installations to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.  Serving as the way station between the Guggenheim’s “blockbuster” exhibition of Turrell’s Aten Reign, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s blowout review of Turrell’s nearly fifty years of work, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston offers a subdued, yet cohesive addition to the national celebration of one of America’s pioneering light and space artists.

James Turrell, Acro, Green, (1968), projected light, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase. © James Turrell

Consisting of seven immersive light installations, as well as three portfolios of drawings and sketches for Turrell’s ongoing Roden Crater project, the exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston lacks the high-profile events in New York and Los Angeles, instead focusing on a broad, considered survey of Turrell’s work.  In keeping with the projects and mission of the artist in the exploration of sight and perception, the tightly curated show welcomes a slow, lingering consideration of each work, as visitors are invited to take their time passing from work to work.  With an emphasis put on this gradual examination of space, the museum is currently taking reservations for the exhibition, seeking to limit the enormous rushes its sister exhibitions on either coast have already seen.

James Turrell, Site Plan Roden Crater, (1999) Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, © James Turrell

It’s worth noting just how easily Turrell’s work gives itself over to artifact, despite its vocal emphasis on experience.  His meticulous planning process and vigorous installation instructions have created countless sketches, architectural renderings and planning photographs that have allowed Turrell to compile a body of work that exists beyond the installations themselves.  Even beyond the works on view at these three museum exhibitions, Turrell has also placed works on view in the past few months at Pace Gallery in New York, Kayne Griffin Corcoran in LA, and Almine Rech in Paris, each of which had its own series of plans and photographs from Turrell’s various projects, in particular the ambitious Roden Crater.

James Turrell and Peter Kneubühler, First Light Portolio: B1: Raethro, (1989-90) Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, © James Turrell

But even so; here, Turrell’s installations take center stage.  Moving from his early works with suspended shapes of light (including his early projected works like Tycho) to his later experiments with Ganzfelds and full room spaces utilizing light as a perceptual device (1999’s The Light Inside, for example), Turrell’s career project is well-documented, including a number of his less discussed but no less impressive aquatint renderings, which serve as light installations of their own, even while serving as planning works.

James Turrell, Aurora B: Tall Glass, (2010) Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, © James Turrell

The city of Houston has a long history with James Turrell.  The artist has installed a number of Skyspaces in the city, and the active presence of his  dealer Hiram Butler has solidified the artist’s legacy in the Texan city.  Accordingly, Turrell’s exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts serves as a welcome focal point, underlining the artist’s dedication to the long expanses of sky and light that have defined the American landscape for centuries.

Turrell’s retrospective closes on September 22nd, and includes a series of events and programming at his various skyspaces and other installations in Houston.

James Turrell, End Around: Ganzfeld, (2006), Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. © James Turrell Photograph by Florian Holzherr

James Turrell, The Light Inside, (1999) Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, © James Turrell

—D. Creahan

Read more:
Exhibition Site [MFAH]
“James Turrell: Master Of Illusion And The Light Inside” [Houston Press]
Twilight Epiphany [Rice University]



James Turrell: A Retrospective James Turrell by Giménez, Trotman and Zajonc James Turrell: Geometry of Light
Click Here For James Turrell Books