born into a Quaker family of doctors and engineers in Pasadena, California in 1943, Turrell studied mathematics, astronomy, geology and psychology—all principles that would later emerge in his artwork. He began to gain widespread notoriety for his art in the mid-1960’s, when he became associated with a group of Los Angeles artists (including Bruce Nauman and Robert Irwin) who pioneered what is now known as the Light and Space Movement. Turrell currently resides in Flagstaff, Arizona—at least until the completion of his most ambitious project to date (slated for 2012), Roden Crater, a dormant volcano that has been in the process of artistic transformation into a celestial observatory under Turrell’s hands for the past 32 years.
La lumière comme matériau
Depuis la fin des années 60, les installations de James Turrell, appelées aussi « environnements perceptuels », sont réalisées à partir d'un seul matériau : la lumière, naturelle ou artificielle. Mis à part les dessins et les plans qui accompagnent ses œuvres de plus grande envergure, sa production ne comporte ainsi aucun objet en tant que tel. Ses interventions, ses installations « en chambre » ou à ciel ouvert, procèdent toutes d’une quête artistique qui déstabilise nos relations au réel. En manipulant la lumière, James Turrell sollicite les sens, il se joue de la perception du spectateur, il la bouscule, la trompe... Entre ses mains la lumière prend une extraordinaire matérialité. création d'espaces fictifs... troublants puis fascinants...
"I dematerialize the physical walls and materialize things that we tend to think of as being intangible. I want to give primacy to things that tend not to be consciously seen.” He said.
“My work is about space and the light that inhabits it. It is about how you confront that space and plumb it with vision. It is about your seeing, like the wordless thought that comes from looking into fire.”
“I feel my work is made for one being, one individual. You could say that's me, but that's not really true. It's for an idealized viewer. Sometimes I'm kind of cranky coming to see something. I saw the Mona Lisa when it was in L.A., saw it for 13 seconds and had to move on. But, you know, there's this slow-food movement right now. Maybe we could also have a slow-art movement, and take an hour.”
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