James Turrell, long known for his work with light and space, has devoted more than four decades to creating a naked-eye observatory out of the cone of an extinct Paleolithic Era volcano located in Arizona’s Painted Desert. Roden Crater and Autonomous Structures opened at Pace Gallery last March in anticipation of the light artist’s exhibitions in museums spanning three different time zones this spring.
The exhibit was comprised of three parts: photographs of the Roden Crater, bronze and plaster models of areas within the crater, and fifteen Autonomous Structures. These freestanding chambers are inspired by ancient structures like Machu Picchu, where the Incas built rooms and named them for the viewing experience each created for its visitors. They are: the Hitching Post of the Sun, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of Three Windows. The goal behind the Roden Crater and these structures is to create spaces in which intergalactic light and cosmic movement can be experienced.
After becoming a pilot at 16, Turrell delivered supplies to remote mine sites and mapped the skies. At a young age, he became used to perceiving the earth from above, seeing the photons around it.
“We live within this reality we create, and we’re quite unaware of how we create the reality. So the work is often a general koan into how we go about forming this world in which we live, in particular with seeing,” he told Interview Magazine in 2009.
Turrell calls for experiencing nature in a more profound way. He has called us light-eaters, crustaceans, people who build and become cities. With the Roden Crater he’s showing us how to crack open our surroundings and reach for that kernel inside us that promises the light we ate was not wasted.
by Maria Anderson