“I feel that I want to use light as this wonderful and magic elixir that we drink as Vitamin D through the skin—and I mean, we are literally light-eaters—to then affect the way that we see.” —James Turrell
There is an infectious fetish for light, and like his fellow pioneers of the Light and Space Movement in the ’60s, James Turrell has been inflicted for years. Inspired by the radiant light and atmosphere of Los Angeles, Turrell and company were enticed by the uncanny ability of light to alter a viewer’s perception of the environment. This week, upon the opening of James Turrell’s light-takeover of New York City’s Guggenheim Museum, we look to five artists in the vein of Turrell—living not in his shadow, but instead, the same light.
1. Robert Irwin is perhaps best known for the Getty Gardens in Los Angeles, an ever-changing, site-specific installation that explores the interplay between light, flora, and water. Irwin, an innovator in the Light and Space movement, began his career as a painter and turned to installation as a means of disposing with medium and object altogether.
2. Olafur Eliasson uses natural elements (like light, water, fog) and makeshift technical devices to transform museum galleries and public areas into immersive environments.
3. Dan Flavin: Utilizing fluorescent light tubing available on the commercial market, Dan Flavin created light installations (or “situations” as he preferred to call them) that became icons of Minimalism.
4. Eric Cahan: Though Eric Cahan photographs skies and oceans, his compositions are not traditional landscapes—his true subject is the quality and appearance of light at sunrise and sunset. Cahan was inspired to begin these works, collectively called the “Sky Series”, after seeing James Turrell’s earthworks at Roden Crater; his other cited influences include Mark Rothko and the Light and Space Movement.
5. Ron Cooper works with variously colored fluorescent lights, as well as materials like glass panels, resin, and fiberglass that hold, refract, and reflect light. InFloating Volume of Light (1972), for example, Cooper directs two beams of light to cross each other in mid-air, forming a cubic sculpture of light that hovers in space.