Acton
Acton
Acton
Acton

Image Resources | Currently on View in The Nagler Family Gallery (K412)

Acton

James Turrell (American, 1941-)


Acton belongs to the Space Division Constructions series, which James Turrell began in 1976. In these works, Turrell defines two distinct areas of a room: the "viewing space," where the audience stands to view the work, and the "sensing space," which is filled with diffused light. A thin partition with a large opening in its center separates the two spaces. Turrell creates an optical illusion in which the viewer initially perceives the opening as a flat, monochromatic surface. Prolonged viewing yields a surprising shift in perception, as the viewer may see and even reach into the sensing space.

Turrell was born in Los Angeles and studied mathematics and psychology at Pomona College in Claremont, California. He was part of a movement of California artists who experimented with light and visual perception in the late 1960s. A viewer's perception of Acton goes through many transformations. Turrell's work does not strive for verisimilitude but rather encourages an otherworldly, psychological experience.

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Acton belongs to the Space Division Constructions series, which James Turrell has been making since 1976. In these works, Turrell divides a room into two areas that he calls the "sensing space" and the "viewing space." In Acton, a partition wall with a rectangular opening divides the rooms into two zones roughly equivalent in size. Lights aimed at the side walls of the sensing space create a reflective ambient light that dimly illuminates the viewing space. Standing in the sensing space, the viewer initially perceives the opening between the spaces as a flat surface, much like a rectangular, monochromatic painting hanging on what appears to be a solid wall. But after studying the canvas closely, a surprising shift in perception occurs-the rectangle opens up and becomes transparent, allowing the viewer to look and even reach into the space that lies beyond.

A recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, Turrell was born in Los Angeles and studied mathematics and psychology at Pomona College. He received his M.F.A. from Claremont Graduate School and became one of the leading artists experimenting with visual perception in the California Light and Space Movement of the late 1960s.

In working with light, what is really important to me is to create an experience of wordless thought, to make the quality and sensation of light itself something really quite tactile. . . . Often people reach out to try to touch it.
-James Turrell, 1985

Object Information

artist
James Turrell (American, 1941-)
creation date
1976
materials
tungsten lights in specially designed room
dimensions
34 x 21 x 24 x 21 ft. viewing room
11 x21 ft. aperture room
6 ft. 3 in. x 12 ft. aperture opening
accession number
1989.111
credit line
Gift of the Contemporary Art Society, the National Endowment of the Arts and Friends of Sylvia Zazas
copyright
© James Turrell
collection
Contemporary Art
colors