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Andrea Peña
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The Mattress Factory is an artist-centered museum, international residency program and renowned producer and presenter of installation art. We say “yes” to artists, offering time and space to dream and realize projects in our hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. We invite audiences from around the world and around the corner to step inside, immerse and connect with the artistic process.

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On View

James Turrell

Catso, Red

This play is a reflection on the (im)possibility of accepting diversity and the other. The fragmented body of the neoplasm—the fruit of unstable conditions—overcomes barriers, loves and denies itself and others, wanders around, forgetting its profession. It frequently and with pleasure divides, goes through dangerous palpation, questions the possibility of contact with the experience of the other. Poorly brought up but very successful, it invites us to a trans-species transition.

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I like to accord light the "thingness" that it should have. Generally, we look at light as a form of revelation of something and are interested in light as a revelation. Rather than light's illumination of other things, I'm interested in its thingness, its object-making, thing-making kind of ability. - James Turrell

In Catso, Red, James Turrell has created what appears to be a red cube in the corner of the gallery by projecting a red square of light diagonally across the room. Light is a material with a three-dimensional quality in this cross-corner projection. As the viewer moves closer, they see that the red light actually follows the contours of the walls. The artist has learned to carefully sculpt light so that it takes on an almost solid form. Here, a red cube appears to be suspended in the corner of a room. This work challenges our notions of three-dimensionality and reveals how our brains process visual information.

Artist Statement

As you look at a piece or an experience, you can assemble the piece. As you move on it, you can reassemble it. And the fact is that you can go back in and assemble it again to its original state, and yet, having done that doesn't steal its magic. It's very important to me that you see it one way at first, and then it reveals itself as something else. Then you go back again and see it the initial way again.

When

Long-term

1994

Where

500 Sampsonia, 2nd Floor

ACCEssibility

This work is on an intentionally dark floor

Image by Tom Little, courtesy of Mattress Factory
About The Artist

James Turrell is one of the most celebrated American artists working today. Born in California in 1943, he grew up with an enduring love of aviation and the sky, as well as a fascination with light. His Quaker background also substantially formed his approach to life and art, with its emphasis on silent access to the “light within.” From age six, Turrell was urged by his grandmother to “go inside and greet the light” at Quaker meetings. In the early 1960’s, Turrell studied perceptual psychology at Pomona College, taking additional classes in other scientific disciplines, such as mathematics, geology and astronomy. He also studied in an experimental program at the University of California at Irvine that combined art and technology. In 1966, Turrell rented the old Mendota Hotel in Ocean Park, California. For two years, he worked on his studio spaces, transforming them into pure white boxes. He closed the studio rooms off from all outside light by painting the windowpanes, constructing walls to cover the windows and smoothing the walls with plaster. These “shells” were ideal for his exploration of projected light. Turrell’s first works exploring light used projections of white or colored light in darkened rooms. At the Mendota Hotel he also developed “Shallow Space Constructions,” in which a secondary wall is built in a room so that slits occur at one or more of its edges. The partition wall is back-lit with fluorescent lights that shine through the slits, dissolving one’s sense of the actual dimensions of the room. In the mid-1970’s, Turrell lost his studio spaces and turned his attention to flying. He supported himself by restoring antique cars and rebuilding vintage aircraft. During this time, Turrell spent hundreds of hours flying over America in search of the ideal location for his life’s most ambitious work of art. He scanned the countryside from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast, and from Lake Louise south of the Canadian border down to Chihuahua near the Mexican border. The succeeding work of Turrell’s life grew out of his experiences viewing the earth and light during these flights. It was at this time that Turrell discovered the San Francisco range of extinct volcano cones in northwest Arizona. He was subsequently able to purchase Roden Crater, where he settled permanently in 1979. Roden Crater is a natural cinder volcano situated on the southeastern edge of the Painted Desert. Since 1979, Turrell has been transforming the crater into a large-scale work of art that relates – through the medium of light – to the universe of the surrounding sky, land, and culture. Turrell studied and adapted essential features of other “naked eye observatories,” such as the 18th-century observatory in Jaipur, India, for the Roden Crater project, using and adapting the natural formation of the crater. James Turrell’s artwork has been exhibited in major museums around the world, and many cities and collectors have commissioned new permanent works. Turrell’s achievements have been recognized by the Acadamie Francaise when he was made a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres (a signal honor for a non-French artist) at the opening of a major installation of his work in Poitiers. Recent exhibitions of his work have been presented at the MAK, Vienna, Austria; the Scottsdale Center for Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, AZ; Espace Electra, Paris; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

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