James Turrell «Roden Crater» 1974 -


James Turrell, Roden Crater 5, 1974

Turrell’s work allows us to see ourselves 'seeing.' Whether harnessing the light at sunset or transforming the glow of a television set into a fluctuating portal, Turrell’s art places viewers in a realm of pure experience. 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. His fascination with the phenomena of light is ultimately connected to a very personal, inward search for mankind’s place in the universe.

James Turrell, Roden Crater original site plan 1, 1974
Roden Crater original site plan

James Turrell, Roden Crater original site plan 2, 1974

James Turrell, Roden Crater aerial 1, 1974

James Turrell, Roden Crater 4, 1974

James Turrell, Roden Crater aerial 2, 1974

James Turrell, Roden Crater litho, 1974

James Turrell, Roden Crater 3, 1974

The Roden Crater project is Turrell's most ambitious project and is being constructed in a dormant volcano in the Painted Desert of northern Arizona, northeast of Flagstaff. Turrell purchased the land with grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Dia Art Foundation and others. He is transforming Roden Crater into a space whose art is as much in the light of space and objects as it is in the spaces created in the crater. It will be your perceptions and interactions with the space and the ever-changing nature of light created by the light of the sun, moon, stars and other celestial events that will drive the art. Much like other civilizations throughout history that have built large structures that embody knowledge, scientific, cultural and spiritual, so will the Roden Crater project.

James Turrell, Roden Crater model, 1974

James Turrell, Roden Crater 2, 1974

James Turrell, Roden Crater 1, 1974

Mr. Turrell creates elaborately simple structures within which to experience light and space in new ways. His 'Gesamtkunstwerk,' an inverted Babel being constructed within Roden Crater, a dormant Arizona volcano, is currently due for completion in 2006. A multimillion dollar earthwork of tunnels, elliptical chambers, and a perfected rim, it is designed for enhanced contemplation of the heavens, a kind of natural telescope that will use the laws of perception in lieu of lenses. ~ David Cohen.

James Turrell, Roden Crater approach, 1974

James Turrell, Roden Crater terra, 1974

«I left the Roden Crater project with wonderful new inspirations and memories which still drive me today. If I look back at one moment when I felt that I had an understanding of what Jim was attempting to create, it was in a flight to California with Jim piloting accompanied by his family, my wife and myself. We left the Flagstaff airport just before sunrise in the clear desert air. As we reached altitude, we faced the huge full moon sitting on the horizon directly in front of us. Jim began to make the plane circle and when we were 180 degrees around, we were facing the brilliant rising sun as it rested on the other horizon. Jim continued to circle as the images of the sun and moon continued to appear in a rotating pattern of bright hotness and cool reflection. After several revolutions, Jim straightened the plane and never said a word about it. He didn't have to. I sat there awestruck the rest of the way to California. That one moment showed me the tremendous beauty in the nature of light, our solar system and our own small earth in this immensity. I think that is the power of Jim's work. You can't own it or carry it with you. It absorbs you and you are transformed in positive ways. Maybe not on the spot, but you will be.» ~ William Earl Cook, CEO Laser Solutions, Inc.


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Turrell talk, 1984
Project Roden Crater
Art Tower Mito, Japan.

sources: pbs.org, lasersol.com, artcritical.com