|A rendering of James Turrell's Aten Reign installation at the Guggenheim.|
|Prado, 1967. In this installation light|
is projected through an aperture onto
an otherwise unlit wall.
If you go to the Guggenheim, the first installation you'll come upon is Aten Reign. The museum's rotunda has been transformed by it: The usual open, airy architecture replaced by a series of concentric cones that both make the space smaller and saturate the viewer in an intense color that slowly moves across a full spectrum, ranging from red to blue, and back again. The piece has been described as a skyscape. I suppose it is, but not like any I've ever seen. The intense color seems too alien, extraterrestrial even: I imagine it is what the atmosphere might be like on a planet much closer to its sun, than ours is to ours.
|A view of the site specific installation:|
Aten Reign is also about sensory deprivation though. While the light changes color, it is of an uniform intensity that numbs the senses, making it hard to fully understand the area's physical dimensions. (The sensation was disorienting.) As an undergrad, Turrell studied something called the "Ganzfeld effect." It is a perceptual phenomena resulting from uniform and unstructured stimulation; as much about loss of vision as it is about seeing. Aten Reign's successive colors also create distinct after images, adding to the sensory confusion. Iltar is another installation that uses sensory deprivation. It consists of a dark, indistinct room with what looks like a dark rectangular screen illuminated by the faintest of light projected onto the two opposite walls. One optical effect is that the lights start to seem as if they are pulsating; another, the rectangle seems to grow darker.
I have to admit, I was a touch disappointed with Iltar. There was quite a wait before I could see it. The installation setting consists of a small room, and only two or three viewers are allowed in at a time. One result was heightened expectations that weren't quite met. Still, it was an interesting experience. My favorite installations though are Afrum and Prado both 1967, and Ronin 1968.
|Afrum, 1967. This is a cross-corner|
Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue (@89th Street), NYC. Unfortunately the show ends on the 25th of September.