Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Turrellings

According to the Roden Crater Facebook page, the James Turrell Skspace at Rice University in Houston is opening May 4-6.The blog for art:21 describes it as, "a flat-topped, 72-square-foot pyramid housing a seating area for viewers." Further, according to the official Rice University page, "the interior space will provide seating for 44 people and is acoustically equipped for musical performances ... The second level will have standing space for approximately 100 people."

skyspace-rice1.jpg
[Rendering of James Turrell Skyspace | image source]

One of the comments on the Facebook page points out that Turrell's Skyspace at the Nasher Museum in Dallas, one of the few Skyspaces I've visited, closed due to an encroaching residential tower being built a block away. This is corroborated by the local D Magazine (last summer), which includes the below photo. (Further the Nasher is complaining about the reflected sunlight from the rising tower.)

skyspace-rice2.jpg
[Museum Tower Forces Nasher to Shutter Tending, (Blue)]

The closure of Tending, (Blue) reminds me of Turrell's Skyspace in Chicago, which is located in a public plaza near UIC. Its completion was delayed due to a relocation after it was determined that a nearby church steeple was visible in the elliptical oculus. Should the reverse have happened in Dallas? Should a zoning envelope been created for the nearby tower, so it would not cut into the square of sky? Should Turrell's meditative environment trumped a Texas Trump?

If anything, the recent situation in Dallas does a good job of illustrating how much control is required in the planning and implementation of Turrell's installations. While his greater canvas is light and the immediate one is the sky -- a pretty large area, especially relative to other artworks -- his framing requires omitting non-sky interference (minus planes, birds, and the like), but it also requires a significant amount of construction savvy to create the smooth surfaces and knife edge opening, making the architecture disappear and the sky get all the attention. That said, I like the way the Rice Skyspace berms up the landscape to create a sealed-off environment for visitors, placed below the floating plane. I'd love to see the drawings of the project as well as photos when the Skyspace opens next month.

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