Take a First Look Inside James Turrell’s Awe-Inspiring New Exhibition

An exploration of light, color, and space awaits visitors at James Turrell’s first survey exhibition in Mexico.
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After over two years of preparation, Museo Jumex has officially debuted Passages of Light, a survey exhibition by American artist James Turrell. Turrell orchestrates light, space, and color on a monumental scale, and the exhibition unfolds over two floors of the museum’s galleries. The retrospective spans half a century, following the artist’s career from the late 1960s to the present day.

Apani (2011) from the Ganzfeld series. The magic of Turrell’s works hinge on mathematical precision and computer-programmed lights in a carefully controlled environment.

Turrell gives light a physical presence with projected fields of saturated color that redefine the immaterial. Designed to eliminate the viewer’s depth perception, the installations can appear as floating geometric objects or immersive spaces that dissolve physical boundaries. Turrell’s exploration into the materiality of light often draws the audience into contemplative thought.

Squat Blue (1968), from the Projection Pieces series, is the earliest Turrell work exhibited at Passages of Light and is part of la Colección Jumex.

"My work is more about your seeing than it is about my seeing, although it is a product of my seeing," says Turrell. "I’m also interested in the sense of presence of space; that is, space where you feel a presence, almost an entity—that physical feeling and power that space can give."

Passages of Light welcomes visitors with Amesha Spentas, a site-specific piece from James Turrell’s Ganzfeld series that immerses viewers in a saturated field of color. Each body of work in the exhibition is paired with a quotation to better illuminate the artist’s influences.

Amesha Spentas is one of Turrell’s Ganzfeld installations, which use light projections to engulf the viewing space. The German word Ganzfeld—meaning "total field"—describes the phenomenon of sensory deprivation in which depth perception is completely lost.

Installations continue on the second floor, which includes a collection of prints, photographs, models, and holograms that trace the breadth of Turrell’s work—starting with his First Light prints and his earliest experiments with light projections. The artist’s explorations with recent technology, including holograms, are also on display.

Born in Los Angeles in 1943, Turrell is a pioneer in the Southern California Light and Space movement. His work has been presented in major venues around the world.

One section of the exhibition is devoted to Turrell’s magnum opus, the Roden Crater project. Begun in 1977, the ongoing project is Turrell’s monumental attempt to transform an extinct volcano in remote Arizona into an observatory for celestial events. 

Before entering the Ganzfeld’s limitless field of color, visitors must remove their shoes. The process of crossing over into the space shares parallels with the spiritual rituals in temples. Photography and video are not permitted within the exhibition.

Aural (2018) from the Ganzfeld series.

"Turrell’s work is a potent means of employing inherently and fundamentally human ways of seeing to move beyond it by allowing affect to overrule thought, and enable us to pass into new perceptions and understanding of our own place and time," says Museo Jumex Chief curator Kit Hammonds, who, along with Curatorial Assistant Adriana Kuri Alamillo, organized James Turrell: Passages of Light. 

On view at Museo Jumex, Gathas (2019) from the Curved Elliptical Glass series is among Turrell’s most recent body of works. "Its slow transformation of color has been likened by the artist to musical scores," reads a press statement.

Rondo (Blue) (1969) from the Shallow Space Construction series.

James Turrell's Accretion Disk (2018), created for Museum Frieder Burda. The name is the astrophysics term for a disk made of gas or interstellar dust that rotates around a newly created star.

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