James Turrell Takes Up Curating, With a Show by His Hero – The New York Times

February 24, 2022 by No Comments

A compelling new show at the Pace Gallery in Manhattan, “Ad Reinhardt: Color Out of Darkness,” comes with an unusual perk. It has been “curated by James Turrell,” as the subtitle proclaims. The prospect of Turrell, an American master of light, presiding over a show of paintings by Reinhardt, an American master of dark, has a special allure, offering not only two visions for the price of one but a glimpse at the improbable ways of inspiration.

On a recent morning, I met Turrell at the gallery with plans to see his Reinhardt show. But first he led me into a pitch-black room at street level where he had just finished installing a piece of his own, “After Effect.” We sat down on a plain wooden bench to watch. What appeared to be a giant screen, framed in cherry-red light, rose up the ceiling. You could see through it, to an illuminated green rectangle in the far distance. As we talked, the greens blued into ultramarine or yellowed into chartreuse. It looked like nothing so much as a three-dimensional abstract painting, a walk-in Reinhardt or rather a Rothko inhabited by planes of voluptuous color.

In reality, of course, there was nothing there, not even a screen, just LED lights from a group of projectors suffusing the darkness. As we oohed at the changing effects, Turrell mentioned that he had recently undergone cataract surgery. “It helped me with color,” he said. “In the general population, women are more sensitive to color than men.”

Now 78, Turrell is a genial and bearish presence. He still has his trademark long white beard, although it no longer brands him as a Western-style wild man and renegade. He is a grandfather of four, and mentioned that during the Christmas season he is willing to accept requests to assume the guise of Santa Claus.

Turrell lives in Flagstaff, Ariz., not far from the Roden Crater, an extinct volcano that has obsessed him for more than 40 years. Since purchasing the site in 1977, he has constructed a labyrinth of chambers and tunnels that aestheticize the experience of sky-watching. Its completion has been postponed so many times that asking Turrell about an opening date prompts him to joke, “I said I am opening the crater piece in the year 2000, and I am sticking to it.”

When the subject turned to Reinhart, Turrell said he never actually had the pleasure of meeting him. He did, however, hear him lecture. One night — this was in February 1962 — Turrell visited the Pasadena Museum, where Reinhardt was giving a talk entitled “The Artist as Artist.” (Reinhardt’s humor tended toward the edgy and absurdist).

Turrell was then a 19-year-old sophomore at Pomona College, and remembers the jolt of seeing Reinhardt’s work for the first time. A few days after the lecture, at the Virginia Dwan Gallery in Los Angeles, he admired a show of Reinhardt’s Black Paintings — those difficult, obdurate, near-monochromatic canvases that require close and prolonged looking. If you walk by them quickly, they appear as vacant as a wall. But if you let your eyes adjust to their austere palettes, blocks of subtly differentiated color emerge from voluminous darkness.

“They’re not really black,” Turrell said of the paintings. “They have a brownish cast. There are other colors in them. Blues, reds and brown. …….

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/arts/design/roden-crater-pace-turrell-reinhardt-light.html

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