“Light is this thing we usually use to illuminate other things,” the New York Times quotes James Turrell as stating. “I’m interested that light has thingness itself, so it’s not something that reveals something about other things you’re looking at, but it becomes a revelation in itself.”
The legendary artist appears in an exclusive video featured in Art21′s 100 Artists. In the film, he explains that it took him time to understand how to convert light into something more palpable and able to be appreciated by people. Turrell explains that we don't marvel at light the same way we do with paintings, minerals, and the like.
It is this imaginative thinking that has propelled artist throughout his career—and he's not slowing down. This year is shaping up to be one of his biggest: Turrell will have retrospectives at the Guggenheim, LACMA, and another at Museum of Fine Arts Houston (you read that right, that's three retrospectives). He also just wrapped up a show at PACE gallery, and has shows at Kayne Griffin Corcoran in LA and at Louis Vuitton City Center in Las Vegas.
Turrell's obsession with light began in the '60s during an art history class at Pomona College. He saw a beam of light cast from a slide projector and that's when he first asked himself: what if light was the thing people saw instead of the thing to help people see?
That simple question has lead Turrell throughout his exploration of light and space, holding numerous exhibitions across the world. Watch the video below to hear the artist himself about his evolution as an artist and what he hopes to express through his works.