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James Turrell Turns a Volcanic Crater Into Land Art

03.13.13 Eugene Reznik

Los Angeles-born artist James Turrell, known for visceral immersive installations like Bindu Shards, works primarily with light and “indeterminate space” to alter his audience’s visual perception and consciousness.

Towards that end, since 1974, Turrell has been developing a monumental land art project known as Roden Crater, a three-mile-wide extinct volcano near Flagstaff, Arizona.

One of the most ambitious projects ever envisioned by an artist, Turrell’s masterwork will convert the inner cone of the 400,000-year-old crater into a massive naked-eye observatory, designed specifically for viewing and experiencing skylight, solar, and celestial phenomena.

Pace Gallery in New York, in anticipation of Turrell’s upcoming three-venue retrospective at Guggenheim, LACMA and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is opening an exhibition Thursday night presenting bronze and plaster models of spaces in the crater. The show will also have the artist’s photographs of the project on view alongside 15 “Autonomous Structures,” which the gallery describes as “freestanding chambers designed for experiencing visual phenomena and connecting visitors with the movements of the cosmos.”

“Autonomous Structures are just containers for the light,” Turrell says. “The art is in the experience of the viewer.”

“Roden Crater and Autonomous Structures,” James Turrell, Mar 15 – April 20, Pace Gallery, New York, Opening reception on Thursday Mar 14 at 6 – 8 PM