This Art Collector Set provides an in-depth look at James Turrell's Sky Pesher, 2005, a site-specific artwork built into the sloping lawn just west of the Walker Art Center. Created by artist James Turrell, Sky Pesher is an architectural space that welcomes visitors to take a seat, view the sky, and gain new perspective on the nature of light.
This Set integrates information from ArtConnectEd, the broader context of Walker resources (including recordings of the artist's voice), other Web-based content, and additional research.
A guide to nomenclature used in this Set:
This Set was developed by Abigail Anderson.
Feel free to make this Set your own. As a registered user of ArtsConnectEd you can duplicate any published Art Collector Set to your own account. Once a Set is duplicated you can edit the Set and its slides. Click here to learn more about duplicating a published Set.
James Turrell was born in Los Angeles in 1943. His college studies included perceptual psychology, mathematics, and art—subjects that continue to inform his artistic practice today. In the 1960s, Turrell became part of the California Light and Space group, a collective of artists who produced artworks as pure visual experiences, rather than as images or objects, often incorporating such materials as glass, phosphorescent materials, and acrylic. With this group, Turrell experimented with using high-intensity projected light as a physical material. The artist's sculptural and architectural installations, created for indoor and outdoor spaces, offer viewers an experience of total immersion vastly different from an encounter with an artwork in a typical gallery space.
Image: James Turell (left) with Caliper Studio project team
The outdoor artwork Sky Pesher, 2005 was commissioned as part of the Walker's expansion in 2004–2005. Changes realized at the time of the expansion include: new galleries; a 385-seat theater for the performing arts; an expanded library, art lab, and teen center; public lounges; and a free public park. This open expanse complements the adjacent Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and is the site for Turrell's work which was announced as follows:
The Walker has also commissioned a skyspace work, entitled Sky Pesher, by James Turrell located in its new four-acre garden. This 23-foot-square underground room features seating for 30 people, who will be able to view the changing sky through an opening in the ceiling. Viewed from above ground, the piece will resemble a spare, minimalist cube resting on the landscape.
Source: Walker Art Center press release no. 104, page 7: "NEW WALKER ART CENTER OPENS ON APRIL 17, 2005"
Pictured left: Visitors spread out and take in a sonic experience while, inside the Skyspace chamber, Minneapolis-based duo Lookbook performs. June 4, 2009, part of Skyspace/Soundspace concert series presented on Target Free Thursday Nights
Nestled into the new garden on the Walker’s expanded campus is an underground pathway that leads visitors into a modest square chamber. Sky Pesher, 2005 by American artist James Turrell is a freestanding room-size structure with a 16-square-foot aperture at the apex of its curving white ceiling. Influenced by his studies in perceptual psychology and optical illusion, Turrell is known for working with light and space to orchestrate installations that he calls Skylights, Skyspaces, and Perceptual Cells. In this piece, the artist combines natural and artificial light through computer-controlled sensors activated minutes before sunrise and sunset to create a captivating optical effect that evokes our most profound contemplation of light. What unfolds next is the illusion that the architecture of the space slowly vanishes as it becomes saturated with light and color, making it appear infinitely deep and closer to us—an effect Turrell refers to as “bringing the sky down.” In this treat for the senses, the artist seizes a universal concept—perception—and presents its most individualistic, personal nature. With heads tilted up and eyes fixed on the sky above, visitors can simply sit, relax, and experience the extraordinary.
Assistant Curator, Visual Arts
left: screenshot from the Walker's Web site (http://visualarts.walkerart.org/detail.wac?id=2530&title=Acquisitions)
photo: ©2005 Paul Warchol
In this recording, James Turrell reflects on the role of light in art. He traces the history of this tradition by identifying key artists and schools of art.
The starting point and objective of Turrell's work is the primeval link between man and light. Turrell, along with Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, and others, helped to define the aesthetics and conceptual issues of the West Coast Light and Space movement in the 1960s. Whereas the art-historical antecedents listed above treated light as subject matter, Light and Space artists began to use light as a medium. A central theme in their work is how phenomena are perceived and processed through consciousness.
(This audio recording is from the Walker Art Center's Art on Call, Code 1038, track 5 of 6.)
|More Info||More Info|
|More Info||More Info|
|More Info||More Info|
Turrell's Skyspaces isolate the sky to emphasize its qualities. But even as the ethereal luminosity is abstracted, it is never completely divorced from its terrestrial setting. The key to perceiving this context is time. (Sky Pesher's sequence can take 60–90 minutes.) Sustained awareness to gradual change inspires the viewer to think about time—day-to-day time, evolutionary time, or geological time.
"Situated near the Grand Canyon and Arizona’s Painted Desert is Roden Crater, an extinct volcano the artist has been transforming into a celestial observatory for the past thirty years. Working with cosmological phenomena that have interested man since the dawn of civilization and have prompted responses such as Stonehenge and the Mayan calendar, Turrell’s crater brings the heavens down to earth, linking the actions of people with the movements of planets and distant galaxies." (Text and video courtesy of Art:21, a PBS production; find more resources about James Turrell on the Art:21 Web site)
|More Info||More Info|
Visitors are capturing their experiences of Sky Pesher, 2005 and sharing their enthusiasm via Flickr, YouTube, Facebook (search for James Turrell-Light Art) and other online channels.
Here's what the City Pages had to say about Turrell's Sky Pesher, 2005:
"A make-out spot underground may not sound too romantic, but hear us out. Hidden on the Walker Art Center hill is a small walkway that leads into what looks like a giant bomb shelter in the side of the hill. Trust your curiousity and venture in. Once inside, you'll find an underground room lined with benches and a giant sunroof as the center point. Created by James Turrell, the installation is meant to create the optical illusion of "bringing the sky down." Check this place out just before sunset or sunrise for the best experience. If it's a quiet day, you'll probably have the space to yourselves, which could turn into some serious smooch time. If it's busy, just bring a blanket and spread out on the Walker hill for a romantic view of the skyline." (http://www.citypages.com/bestof/2009/award/best-make-out-spot-876346/)
Elisa Camp, "Minimalism Split: James Turrell and Light and Space on the West Coast", (thesis statement by student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
The Cool School: Story of the Ferus Art Gallery, a film by ArtHouse Films (THE COOL SCHOOL is the story of the Ferus Gallery, which nurtured Los Angeles’ first significant post-war artists between 1957 and 1966. While James Turrell is not a prominent figure in this documentary, the film illuminates significant art movements and their active development in that time and place.)
Peter Schjeldahl, The Art World, “Way Out West,” The New Yorker, January 25, 2010, pp 76-77
Ursula Sinnreich (editor), James Turrell: Geometry of Light, published by Hatje Cantz, 2009
Lawrence Weschler, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing one Sees