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James TurrellSecond Meeting. Skyspace with tungsten light. Installation, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angles, 1986-88.I believe in the need and thought of spiritual sensibilities or dimensions beyond us. But it is vital to me to take them away from a vocabulary of religion.... One can put semantics and even a sort of priestly personage between you and an experience. This means to achieve this experience one has to pass through such interpretations. It is something that as a Quaker and even more so as an artist--doesnt interest me. I am not interested in experiences that relate to a brand of Religion. This arena of thought has been a concern of art as long as it has existed. For instance, when you enter a cathedral, the experience of the space and light is more likely to engender awe than any rhetoric spoken by the priesthood. Perhaps music comes the closest. For sound has that same directness, which has been the concern of artists, composers for centuries. I choose to be part of this tradition as it cannot be my interest to make things vague. I do want a direct experience, to speak about it in a direct language without any hidden meaning.
Eric OrrL.A. Prime Matter, 1991. Brass column with fire and water, height: 35 ft. (10.7 m.). Permanent installation, Mitsui Fudosan Building, Los Angeles.The year 1991 was a stellar one for Orr, who had two magnificent large-scale sculptures installed that year. L.A. Prime Matter is breathtaking: located on the plaza of the Mitsui Fudosan Building, this thirty-five-foot construction of water and fire sends a column of flame shooting upward every half an hour. A highly sophisticated response to a corporate commission, it is a superb refinement of Orrs Prime Matter made for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1981. The success of the new work, which received the L.A. City Beautiful award, should please Orr, who has traveled a long way in his attempts to resolve and refine the technical aspects of his works.
Robert IrwinShadow Planes, 1979-83. Scrim, natural light. Permanent installation, Old Post Office Building, Washington, D.C.The Old Post Office Building, which has been renovated as office and retail space, is a ten-story structure of relentless gray granite, with a glass canopy centered on a huge atrium and topped by a 315-foot clock tower. It is a curious structure in which to place a commission by a contemporary artist. Nevertheless, in 1979 Irwin undertook a proposed project, 56 Shadow Planes. (The project was later amended to forty-eight planes, eliminating eight panels that would have interfered with day-to-day activity on the first three floors.)The atrium, with its
Bruce NaumanVices and Virtues, 1988. Neon. Permanent installation, University of California, San Diego, at La Jolla; Stuart Collection.Perhaps Naumans most important work to date is the impressive Vices and Virtues, commissioned for the Stuart Collection at the University of California, San Diego, and installed all the way around the top of the Charles Lee Powell Structural Systems Laboratory Building.Naumans enormous outdoor neon piece comprises fourteen seven-foot-high words, with the seven vices superimposed over the seven virtues. The total of eighty-eight letters that make up the work incorporate more than a mile of neon and require eighty-eight electrical transformers. Clicking on and off, the words Anger/Fortitude, Gluttony/Temperance, Avarice/Justice, Pride/Prudence, Sloth/Charity, Envy/Hope, Lust/Faith flash in sequence around the building until they reach their starting point, and then the sequence starts over. The words are made from pairs of brilliant neon colors: emerald, turquoise, pink, peach, coral, yellow, red, sky blue, fuchsia, orange, and light green.The virtues flash sequentially right to left around the building, with each word illuminated for three seconds (3 x 7 = 21 seconds). The virtue cycle restarts every seven seconds. At two-and-a-half-minute intervals, all seven virtues flash on simultaneously for ten seconds. The vices flash in sequence, left to right, at a slightly faster rate of two-and-a-half seconds per word (2.5 x 7 = 17.5 seconds). The vice cycle restarts every 5.83 seconds. All the vices flash together for ten seconds every two minutes. The interplay of the two cycles allows every possible combination of the words to appear and includes the occasional display of all the words simultaneously. The work is illuminated daily, from dusk until 11:00 P.M., and it is frequently lighted for special events as well.Vices and Virtues asks the viewe
DeWain ValentinePacific Waterfall, 1988-90. Laminated glass, 6 ft. 10 in. x 19 ft. x 24 in. (2.1 m. x 5.8 m. x 66 cm). Pacific Enterprises, Los Angeles.Valentine, who is more closely related to a purely sculptural tradition than most of the other Light and Space artists (with the exception of Nauman), has recently moved into a more specifically sculptural realm, yet his shimmering, translucent sculptures are clearly the inheritors of information gathered from decades of Light and Space work. Valentines new, large-scale works still evidence Light and Space concerns, but they are implemented in a decidedly sculptural fashion.Waterfall, a fountain commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Columbato, is installed outside at the end of a swimming pool. There it receives the myriad rays of light that dance on the pools sparkling surface and also absorbs constantly changing color and light from the nearby sea. Waterwall makes its own light as well, as water from its center flows over the deep sea green glass and silently ripples down the planes of the monolith.
The Art of Light and Space
By Jan Butterfield / Photography by Jim McHugh

Size: 8 1/2 x 11", 
Paperback, 272 pages
138 illustrations, 36 in full color
Published 1996
ISBN: 978-0-7892-0171-3
In Stock

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A fascinating investigation of Light and Space art by Robert Irwin, Maria Nordman, James Turrell, Doug Wheeler, and others.

"Light and Space art is the meditative, austerely sensual wing of conceptual art, and Jan Butterfield knows it better than anyone. The Art of Light and Space documents a highly elusive genre about as skillfully as it can be done, through rich description, interviews, extracts from the artists writings, philosophical epigraphs, and on-site photography. . .Butterfields blend of history and criticism has great personal immediacy; her ability to convey the impact of these powerful but ephemeral works without forcing them into any mold is admirable." -- Los Angeles Times Book Review

Ethereal and evocative, the art of Light and Space pushes the viewer beyond the everyday limits of perception. It takes many different forms and uses many different materials, ranging from natural daylight and scrim to glass, plywood, neon, and fire. It taps into far-ranging ideas and systems of knowledge, including alchemy, Buddhism, aerospace technology, witchcraft, astronomy, physiology, and phenomenology.

Written by the foremost authority on the subject and based on more than two decades of research, The Art of Light and Space is the first book to provide an overview of this powerful and increasingly public art form. With rare photographs, extensive artist interviews, and her own insightful observations, Jan Butterfield vividly documents the history of this diverse and sometimes elusive work.

Following a useful introduction that succinctly places the art of Light and Space in the larger context of modern art, the book is divided into ten chapters, each focused on one artist: Robert Irwin, James Turrell, Maria Nordman, Douglas Wheeler, Bruce Nauman, Eric Orr, Larry Bell, DeWain Valentine, Susan Kaiser Vogel, and Hap Tivey. Insightful portrait photographs by Jim McHugh open each chapter and capture the quirky individuality of these inexhaustibly creative men and women. The innovative graphic design emphasizes the artists own words, both in sidebars and in the text, making their voices unusually accessible.

No two artists have followed the same path, but in many cases the work has become increasingly approachable in recent years. Architects and urban planners have begun to incorporate Light and Space installations into public spaces ranging from the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C., to the new building in Pasadena, California. Corporate, nonprofit, and private collectors have commissioned numerous major works, including a solar fountain in Denver, a tea house in Paris, and a fire-and-steam sculpture on a busy Los Angeles street corner.

The processes of creating the works seen here are as intriguing as the final results, and all are illuminated by the text, the illustrations, and the design of this provocative, invaluable volume.

Jan Butterfield is currently head of Access, a consulting firm for artists in Santa Monica, California. Previously she was executive director of Lapis Press and public relations director for the Fort Worth Art Museum and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A well-known art critic, she has contributed to Art in America, Artnews, and many other publications; she is also the author of numerous catalogs.

Jim McHugh, who is a contributing photographer with People magazine, lives in Los Angeles and has been photographing artists for the last ten years.

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