Arts/Entertainment

Experience This Rare Exhibit James Turrell: Gard Blue

Through May 18, 2014, The Spencer Museum, Lawrence, Kan.

The Spencer Museum is pleased to announce its forthcoming exhibition “James Turrell : Gard Blue” beginning this September. Building on the momentum of three simultaneous Turrell retrospectives at major U.S. museums—the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston— the Spencer Museum exhibition provides local and regional art audiences with the rare opportunity to experience Turrell’s art close to home.

For the past half century, James Turrell, the pre-eminent light artist of our time, has worked directly with light and space to create artworks that engage viewers with the limits and wonder of human perception. Informed by his training in perceptual psychology and a childhood fascination with light, Turrell began experimenting with light as a medium in southern California in the mid-1960s and emerged as a leader of the West Coast’s avant-garde Light and Space Movement. Today, Turrell remains on the cutting edge.

Saralyn Reece Hardy, Director of the Spencer Museum of Art and project lead for this exhibition, believes that, decades into his extraordinary art career, Turrell is light years ahead of his time. “His astonishing perceptive power and imagination have created an art of the future,” she says, “one that changes how we see, think and live.”

“But then the lights come on, and the most accurate word is probably ‘magic.’ That’s what it feels like. The walls instantly vanish and you’re standing there in the gloaming light, completely alone, with triangles and cubes floating around you, and the darkness just washing through you, and the empty room is gone. You’ve passed through the looking glass.” ~ Behind the Cover Story: Wil Hylton on James Turrell Magic, The 6th Floor: Eavesdropping on the Times Magazine, nytimes.com, June 17, 2013

“Gard Blue,” created in 1968, marks the crucial juncture when Turrell shifted the viewer’s attention to perception and the phenomenon of pure light, which is his medium. “My work has no object, no image and no focus,” he says. “With no object, no image and no focus, what are you looking at? You are looking at you looking. What is important to me is to create an experience of worldless thought.”

Appearing in a large, box-like room constructed specifically for its display, “Gard Blue” is a projection of blue light in an enclosed space. The clarity of “Gard Blue’s” seemingly material shape is held by a single, arresting color emanating from it. The work encourages sustained attention and demands sensory revelation. In the Spencer’s exhibition, 21st-century holograms by Turrell will surround “Gard Blue,” representing this important American artist’s ideas, innovative methods, and unwavering vision as they continue to develop.


Saralyn Reece Hardy, who has led the Spencer’s initiative to show Gard Blue, has followed Turrell’s career from its early stages and is enthusiastic about the experience that awaits audiences from Kansas and beyond who will personally experience Turrell’s work for the first time during this exhibition. “To share the work of James Turrell with students and the public is a life-long dream for me,” she explains. “His work challenges everything, particularly assumptions about art and its possibilities.”

“Gard Blue” comes to the Spencer as a loan from distinguished patrons and collectors Mark and Lauren Booth. Mark, a KU alumnus, and Lauren, an artist, continually extend their generosity to a broad range of programs at the Spencer Museum of Art, reflecting their deep commitment to contemporary art.

The exhibition remains on view through Saturday, May 18, 2014. Extensive programming will take place throughout the exhibition; details can be found online at spencerart.ku.edu