Turrell Reigns Supreme

Elena Soboleva
Jun 24, 2013 9:19PM

Last Friday, the day of the summer solstice, Guggenheim Museum unveiled the largest James Turrell installation indoors and the artist's first museum exhibition in New York since 1980.  Enveloping the entire volume of the rotunda in luminescent layers of color,  Aten Reign (2013) presents a lucid vision of ever-shifting artificial and natural light.

The name, Aten, is derived from the word for the sun disc in Egyptian mythology and apt for the resplendently moving experience the viewer witnesses within the oval dome as it swells and transforms though surges of color. 

Speaking about the work, Turrell describes his attempts at grappling with the dichotomy of "immaterial and material; picture plane and reality; inside and out" to create the heliocentric masterpiece.    Believing that we achieve "greater lucidity and resolution when our eyes aren't open," to see "with our eyes closed" is the ultimate ambition of the artist who has spent the last five decades depicting light itself.  

Aten Reign is Turrell's largest project, outside of his magnum opus the Roden Crater Project (1979– ) and a historic re-invisioning of the Frank Lloyd Wright space. Drawing on the sacred and profound relationship, he is able to invoke a basic love for light – reminding us that whether divine or scientific, the Helios is still the most essential element to our existence.

Elena Soboleva