If strolling down the street in New York this summer feels like walking on hot coals, head for the James Turrell exhibition at the Guggenheim. It’s a cool down for the mind.
Before the guards kicked us off the floor, I had a chance to experience Turrell’s piece in the rotunda as I imagine the artist wanted us to. Full frontal. Absorbed in the light changes. Surrounded. The colors change slowly and so does your depth perception. Opening up and flattening, the rings play with your mind.
On a humid, temperature rising day, go to the Guggenheim and do what they tell you do in yoga class. Do not look at your neighbor. Let go it all go. Focus on the rings. It’s the “OM” moment.
A peculiar benefit of the show is the Frank Lloyd Wright ramp. We all know it. It’s usually filled with art. Start at the top and spiral down or walk up the cone. The railing is always open to the skylight at the top and it’s customary to peer down into the lobby. At the Turrell show, the railing is closed off with a white screen to create the rotunda piece. There is no art in the spiral. The additional Turrell pieces and other exhibitions are in the side galleries. The ramp itself becomes a different kind of light piece. I don’t know if this was on purpose or not, but it really works.
If I lived near the Guggenheim, I would stop in often. The Turrell piece, Aten Reign, is as refreshing as any Shaken Iced Peach Green Tea Lemonade. It’s soul food for the mind.
ATEN REIGN (2013)
Akhenaten (//;also spelled Echnaton, Akhenaton, Ikhnaton,and Khuenaten; meaning “living spirit of Aten”) known before the fifth year of his reign as Amenhotep IV (sometimes given its Greek form,Amenophis IV, and meaning Amun is Satisfied), was a Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt who ruled for 17 years and died perhaps in 1336 BC or 1334 BC.
He is especially noted for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship centered on the Aten, which is sometimes described as monotheistic orhenotheistic. An early inscription likens the Aten to the sun as compared to stars, and later official language avoids calling the Aten a god, giving the solar deity a status above mere gods.