- Gagosian Gallery
Maybe I want the art I see to feel special.
Maybe I want the art I see to be extraordinary in how it deals with the ordinary.
Maybe I want the art I see to touch me in a visceral as well as cerebral manner.
Maybe I want a bit of catharsis thrown in for good measure.
Maybe I want my artists to look like they really care.
In hope of reaching or touching the above aspirations, I set off to see Turrell’s latest offerings. Now you could say James Turrell has got it pretty easy. Easy in the sense that light itself while an everyday phenomena is by definition always pretty damn special. I would also imagine his budgets are not lacking. So I am not going to make any unfair comparison between those ’emerging’ and the globally established. But there is a master class in both substance and presentation there going here for free, for those up, coming and maybe in need of bit of a scrub.
You could also say that just about everything you see shown at Gagosian looks pretty damn special, by virtue of being there. The Gagosian Gallery sets up the terms of the special immaculately. It does this in large part by the way it uses sculptural placement, whether it’s a body of paintings or in this case light works. At Gagosian the formal sensibility of the hang is always totally spot on.
The invigilation at the space borders on performance. Chiselled faced fine suited young men, often with a soft European accent gently usher you around. Their prescribed aesthetic hovers between bouncer and chaperone, and it tickles me.
But what all this stuff, beyond the work does to perfection, is to set up a calm, considered, and reflective environment for the effective engagement with the art itself. It edits out all the background noise and allows you to focus on what matters. I also maintain (accepting the need for smart suited men is probably peripheral) this attention to detail can apply as much to a temporary artist led intervention in a derelict warehouse or shop as this designated gallery space.
The show begins with some large photographs of the Roden crater. You are then warmed up with a wall based rectangular light work. A section of blue, light hovers on the wall and a green sensual blob shimmers in its middle, it fades and moves seamlessly around the picture plane turning from green to mauve to pink, then merges to yellow. Like most of his work, it is wholly ambiguous in terms of narrative or direct referent, but entirely captivating in its transcendence from the everyday.
The sputnik shaped immersive chamber on show (a one at a time pre-booked experience) was fully pre-booked so I moved toward the main installation. I find myself I a square coloured light room, with no evident illumination source, being ushered over to a bench where I remove my shoes and don plastic theatre over shoes.
Then I wait with others at the foot of a set of steps for my turn in the light chamber which is raised some 4 ft from the floor. We watch those already in move slowly or stand still in the long curved light chamber. The light inside the chamber changes slowly through the spectrum, and bathes the viewers in light. This watching of others seems as much part of the work to me as my actual turn. The anticipation is integral. They become the privileged and we watch in anticipation.
After ten minutes, others leave and we step in. I am drawn to try and walk up the walls by the lack of corners. I am gently ushered back from the edge of the spatial light void at the back of the chamber. I know it is not solid, I know it is just light, but I have to put my hand through to test it. The plane of light is intense enough to suggest a impermeable back lit panel. I stand and enjoyed the colour wash, then turn to look backwards and view the next batch of hopefuls standing below the square entrance at the foot of the theatre like steps. The light is this first space is green the light in my space is red, then the light in my space is purple in the other yellow and so Turrell takes us through the spectrum and a basic lesson on complimentary contrasts. After fifteen minutes I do not want to leave. But I begin to empathise with the others waiting, I am tempted to be greedy and stay in, but move on.
I leave the space, uplifted, fuelled and somehow bettered by the experience. Writing about Turrell in particular seems a contradiction in terms, but it gave such a hug that I had to give it a go. His work and the Gagosian hang demonstrated with deceptive simplicity the joyous effect of considered placement and attention to detail.