Thursday, 4 November 2010

James Turrell at Gagosian Britannia St.

James Turrell is a light-installation artist.This is not one of his creations. This is, in fact, a corridor in the healthily-proportioned space that is the Gagosian Gallery on Britannia St near King's Cross where Turrell's exhibition is being shown. It's an interactive exhibition of five pieces (there's an ante-room exhibit of an Arizona Crater appropriation project which I chose not to explore), one of which requires forward booking. This central, one-at-a-time, total immersion piece Bindu Shards was fully booked when we arrived. However, a helpful installation operative (wearing a sort of irony-defiant doctor's lab coat to perform her role) described the effect that the pulsating light would have on the viewer: mimicking hallucination, giving the impression of texture and pattern rather like a kaleidoscope.

Either side of the moon-landing craft that housed this exhibit there were two other pieces: a simple window-like aperture in the wall, whose changing light is reminiscent of the projections on the National Theatre any night of the week called Sustaining Light and a rather more substantial, walk in installation, Dhātu. This recent latter work required further viewing admin, taking only 5 people at a time wearing hazmat-style shoe guards, but was worth the hassle.
After getting into the space via the Temple-entrance style steps, the room rakes down to a recessed screen similar to that of Sustaining Light (the large, immerse space reminded me of Anthony Gormley's recent Blind Light, or Miroslaw Balka's black box How It Is for Tate Modern) The space around it is sufficiently spotless, seamless and white to allow the changing colours and intensities of those colour to have a mild disorienting effect of the viewer, as well as promoting the impression of 3-d primary colour bleed around the peripheries of objects (i.e. other poeple) in the space. Additionally, with a light source above the entrance the bias of the overall intensity changes from end to end of the room, causing a strange gravitational effect on the viewer.

These noticeable, kinetic effects on myself and my companion reminded my of the wonderfully simple Donald Judd sculptures in a Tate exhibition of 6 years back. The colours and glossy textures of these deceptively innocuous boxes create their own motion in their attractiveness and juxtaposition.

The final room contained two pieces that were more explcitly about this 3-dimensional experience, a pair of holograms which seemed to make use of the dense reflective and refractive properties of two canvas-sized black frames on the wall. This is a clear, real 3-d image that neither this excellent, gallery supplied picture nor my heavily chewed explanation does justice. A partially experimental but economical and thought-provoking exhibition; and as my companion remarked, failing all else everything is, invariably, satisfyingly couched in an Yves Klein Blue.

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