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Art review: James Turrell at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

October 7, 2011 |  6:45 am

Yukalooturrell 
There are few works less conducive to representation than those of James Turrell, which makes a newspaper review a poor substitute indeed for a visit to the micro-survey that’s up through the fall at Kayne Griffin Corcoran in Santa Monica.

Pointedly titled “Present Tense,” the show presents four modestly scaled light installation works from across the span of Turrell’s 45-year career, sketching a loose trajectory of the artist’s evolution — an arc that would seem to extend from mastery to transcendence — while underscoring the fundamental now-ness of the work: the phenomenological necessity of experiencing even pieces that are decades old from the vantage point of the present moment. 

The earliest works, which date to the 1960s, are projections of light that beguilingly simulate the illusion of three-dimensional objects. The latter works are aperture installations: window-sized openings cut into a wall and lit from behind. 

In “Present Tense,” from 1991, the aperture appears as an orange rectangle hovering in the air of a very dark room. “Yukaloo,” from 2011, is similar in structure but with colors that shift with dawn-like slowness through a gentle spectrum of turquoise, pink and yellow. Until one is standing mere inches from the aperture, it is impossible to determine whether the light is a projection, a sculptural entity or a window, and even then it’s none too clear. 

The disorientation is so sharp, indeed, as to incline the mind toward mystical explanations. Gazing directly into the space of the color, with nothing solid for the eye to settle on, one has the sensation of gazing into infinity. 

-- Holly Myers

Kayne Griffin Corcoran, 2902 Nebraska Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 586-6886. Ends Dec. 17. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.kaynegriffincorcoran.com

Above:  James Turrell's "Yukaloo." Credit: Courtesy Kayne Griffin Corcoran 

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