People in art school ‘get’ me. While some people have questioned why I would ever want to visit a museum this many times, or how in the world this could possibly be ‘art’, people like Teresa reassure me. She for a while now, has been one of my most treasured sounding boards. She listens, she considers, she responds. These traits are a remarkable thing to find in a friend; especially in coffee-shop shallowness that seems to purvey the social structure. Teresa is interested in process, materials, color, the catalogue and the wall text; a girl after my own heart. She wants to know how and why, but is open to all possibilities. She was genuinely excited.
While so many of the guests of this exhibition, that I have observed in my visits, fly by work and only take it at face-value, Teresa makes her keen eye alongside an understanding of art appreciation and appropriation obvious. She made the same connection that Alison de Lima Green (Curator of The Light Inside) made on her tour earlier in the week: Tycho White: Single Wall Projection, (1967) was so reminiscent of Barnett Newman and his ‘zips’, something she had discussed in an art theory class that sounded great: ‘White’ a discussion of minimalism, color and light. We noted the stunning beauty of Turrell’s sketches, hung along the outer walls of the two larger rooms Wedgework and Ganzfeld. While many have walked right past these seemingly simple workings, Teresa and I were able to appreciate the fine gradients in color, the mastery of light, the printmaking process, and the obsessive quality that only an artist could comprehend. While these sketches can be perceived as off-handed studies in light and form, fellow artists recognize that Turrell can’t succeed without drawn-out experimentation, visualization and consideration. Those aren’t just sketches, and these aren’t just lights.
As we walked through the exhibition, I appreciated the fact that Teresa is my first companion that has seen one of the other two exhibitions happening in congruence with the one at the MFAH; she had seen the counterpart at the Guggenheim in New York City only a week prior. While Teresa admitted that the main hall of the Guggenheim where Turrell has installed an impressive light program was quite possibly one of the most beautiful things she has ever seen, it was obvious that the scale and diversity of the work at the MFAH was the obvious forerunner. This makes me proud. While Houston all too often gets a bad rep, we can proudly tout three permanent Turrell installations, as well as fourteen pieces in the MFAH permanent collection.
The visit with Teresa meant a lot to me. It solidified a friendship. It reassured me of the validity of my own actions. It has made it possible for us to continue the discussion, she has helped me evolve my thesis, hypothesis, and process almost every step of the way; and even when she doesn’t have anything to say, she will always listen.
What Did You See?
I saw small spaces transformed into different environments by light.
Was it Art?
It is absolutely Art. Turrell’s exploration of light ad the architectural frame has allowed him to use light as a medium to alter the way space is recognized. The piece I keep thinking about is Ganzfeld. The way it felt to be inside of that space was something I’ve never felt or experienced. The walls were not walls, at least based on what my eyes saw. It looked like a space that had no end and I dot think I moved from the spot I was standing the entire time. I wasn’t looking at art but experiencing it as well.
How was it Made?
Turrell’s older works seem to be made using projected light while his ewer works incorporate LED’s. Also, in one of the works I noticed he actually cut into an angular wall to create the illusion he wanted. I actually gasped for breath when looking at this work from the side rather than head on.
What Was It About?
Light, space and the human perception of these two things. Each work alters how you perceive both light and space. It’s something that definitely needs to be experienced.
Does it Deserve To Exist?
I believe Turrell’s work deserves to exist, but then again, who am I to decide what should or shouldn’t be created.
Five Words to Describe How the Experience Made You Feel:
Small, Quiet, Calm, Overwhelmed, Shy
Image: James Turrell, printed by Peter Kneubühler, First Light Portfolio: B1: Raethro, 1989–90, aquatint, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Peter Blum Edition Archive, 1980–1994, Museum purchase with funds provided by the Alice Pratt Brown Museum Fund. © James Turrell