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the physicality of light

May 26, 2009

[WSJ] Visitors to the James Turrell Museum on the Bodega and Estancia Colomé begin their odyssey in Buenos Aires. From there it is a flight of two hours and 15 minutes to Salta in the northwest of Argentina and then a rough four-hour drive on largely unpaved roads through the mountains. Colomé, purchased by Swiss entrepreneur Donald M. Hess in 2001, has been producing wine since 1831 and is the oldest working winery in Argentina. It is about as far off the beaten art track as you can get. Those who make the effort to get there are rewarded by the view of the lush green Calchaquí Valley framed by the foothills of the Andes. The adobe buildings of the Estancia Colomé house a luxury hotel, a state-of-the-art winery and its latest addition, the museum, which opened to the public on April 22.

“Donald Hess has been collecting my work for 20 years — and collected work nearly in vertical vintage, as he’s a vintner,” said Mr. Turrell, who came to Colomé for the opening of the museum. “He has collected my works from the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s and the aughts. This is the result. So it is interesting for me to see this selection because some of it was from when I was 22 and now I am 66. So it is interesting to see these things, to confront them together.”

The museum provides more than 18,000 square feet of exhibition space that fans out around “Unseen Blue” (2002), Mr. Turrell’s most recent and largest Skyspace. He has been creating Skyspaces — walk-in sky observatories in which the artist uses architecture to shape light — since 1974. Donald Hess commissioned the Skyspace for the museum. It is the heart of the collection with a perfectly square space framing the 15-by-15-foot square aperture in the roof through which visitors view the sky. By subtly changing the light surrounding the square, Mr. Turrell manipulates the viewer’s perception. The sky sometimes appears like a flat slab of color; at other times, it is a three-dimensional space. The black granite floor under the opening mirrors the light effects, and visitors can lie down on the black cushions provided to view the sunset and sunrise from a horizontal perspective.

“I am interested in the physicality of light itself,” said Mr. Turrell. “It is not that we use light to reveal something or to illuminate other things, but to . . . be the revelation of itself. I am interested in relating the things we see with the things we see with our eyes closed.” (read or more and more)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. edith chapiro permalink
    September 28, 2009 6:48 pm

    After reading a comment on the James Turrell Museum “am Ende der Welt”
    (at the end of the World) in Argentinisches Tageblatt (German weekly publication) edited in Buenos Aires, I wanted to enlarge on the information provided. What I read and saw triggered fascination and the wish to visit the place. The distance from Salta over unpaved roads plus the height of the location intimidate me; I´m over 80. Any plans for helicopter transportation from Salta airport in view? I´d appreciate to be informed.

  2. edith chapiro permalink
    September 28, 2009 6:51 pm

    No idea what moderation means in this context

  3. September 29, 2009 12:16 am

    Dear Edith,
    how wonderful that you are interested in going to such lengths to experience first hand such amazing work as Turrell’s. unfortunately i have never been to Salta so am unable to provide you any information about transportation there. i wish i could, and do hope you are able to make the such a journey a reality.

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