James Turrell’s Slice of Light

James Turrell’s Slice of Light

James Turrell’s captivating installation highlights the newly opened Nancy and Rich Kinder Building at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

James Turrell, Caper, Salmon into White, 2000. © James Turrell Photograph by Thomas R. DuBrock.

H oused in a “black box” gallery in the new Nancy and Rich Kinder Building at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) is James Turrell’s Caper, Salmon to White: Wedgework, 2000, a captivating light installation not seen in public for seven years. In addition to being an artist, Turrell is a keen pilot, having obtained his licence aged 16, and this piece “perhaps more than any other works by the artist, reflects upon this experience”, says Alison de Lima Greene, curator of Modern and contemporary art at the MFAH. “While the space looks nothing like the sky, the ways in which planes of colour slice through one another is directly based upon how colour and light shift when two different atmospheric fronts meet in the sky – the cooler front ‘wedges’ under the warmer front, which then rises.”

FROM LEFT: THE NANCY AND RICH KINDER BUILDING AT THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, HOUSTON, FROM ABOVE; THE BUILDING'S THIRD-FLOOR ATRIUM. © RICHARD BARNES, COURTESY OF THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, HOUSTON.

Caper, Salmon to White is part of Turrell’s Wedgeworks series, which he started in 1969, and represents a moment of technological innovation. “Earlier Wedgeworks were made using angled fluorescent light to slice across space,” says de Lima Greene. “With the introduction of LED technology, Turrell has been able to refine the quality of light and the layering of one tone over another with incredible nuance, much as Mark Rothko used thin washes of pigment to capture light in his most luminous canvases.”

The Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, opened 21 November 2020.

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