Substantial reporting in this story was conducted by Amy Abrams.
Three museums across the U.S. are collaborating on exhibitions of California artist James Turrell, to take place in spring 2013.
A retrospective opening May 26 at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, organized by Christine Y. Kim, examines Turrell’s work from 1966 to the present. Two smaller exhibitions will take place concurrently at the Guggenheim in New York (June–Sept. 2013) and at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Apr. 7–Aug. 18, 2013).
“The LACMA show will take up over 30,000 square feet,” Kim tells A.i.A. “It’s immense.” The show has been in the planning stages, under the oversight of Kim and LACMA director Michael Govan, for some three years.
Turrell (b. 1943) was a leading figure in California’s Light and Space movement and became a pioneer in Land Art, with his in-progress Roden Crater (1979–ongoing), which is converting a natural volcanic crater near Flagstaff, Ariz., into an observatory-cum-work of art. Among many other accolades including museum shows worldwide since the 1960s, he won a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 1984.
A site-specific piece in New York will use the oculus atop the Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda as a light source. For New Yorkers, the piece will complement Meeting (1986), a permanent installation at MoMA PS1.
As for Houston, says curator Alison de Lima Greene, “We’re showing 13 light-based installations, all from our own collection, as well as two portfolios of prints and related photographs documenting Roden Crater.
“You might say we started working on this when we purchased our first work by Turrell in 1996,” de Lima Greene added. “This is a rather unusual multi-museum collaboration, and because Turrell’s work is always site-sensitive, each show is conceived to bring out a different aspect of the work.”