Perhaps the easiest way to explain the artwork of James Turrell is to say that he’s interested in the qualities of light rather than what light can illuminate. That is to say, since the 1960s, Turrell has been manipulating, controlling, displaying, and molding light to toy with how we evaluate it. That might be understating his works’ ability to truly alter human perception: disorienting, confusing, and illumining.

“I want to create an atmosphere that can be consciously plumbed with seeing…like the wordless thought that comes from looking in a fire,” Turrell has said. Through his art practice, he became the central figure of the California light and space artists of the ’70s. Turrell has had over 160 solo exhibitions around the world since 1967. This summer, he has the remarkable distinction of having three simultaneous retrospectives: at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (May 26, 2013 – April 6, 2014), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (June 9 - September 22), and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (June 21 - September 25). 

“The works of previous artists have come from their own experiences or insights but haven’t given the experience itself. They had set themselves up as a sort of interpreter to the layman…Our interest is in a form where you realize that the media are just perception,” Turrell says of his goals in molding perceptions.

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Everything You Need to Know About James Turrell's Light Art Installations Through His Greatest Works