Monday, April 17, 2017

Austin Journal: James Turrell's "Skyspace" and the Capitol

looking out of James Turrell's "Skyspace" (photograph by Hallie Cohen)
If you go to Austin, be sure not to miss the State Capitol whose dramatic granite sheen frames the downtown skyline. Once inside visitors are allowed into both the senate and the equally auspicious  representatives chamber. And don't miss the portrait gallery where great names like LBJ, John Connally and Ann Richards are represented. Needless to say the building with its carved wooden doorways and swirling rotunda dramatize the traditions of the Lone Star State. One could imagine Elia Kazan filming a Texas eye version of East of Eden in such a auspicious venue. Only steps away on the campus of the University of Texas you'll find the artist James Turrell’s "Skyspace." Here the elliptical shaped architecture is transformed into a mixture of the classic and the modern, in which an oculus like that in Rome's Pantheon opens out into the heavens. Turrell might be looked at as a latter day Vermeer to the extent that his whole project is an examination of the effects of light. Make a reservation at sunset and you will find your notion of dusk totally transformed. "Skyspace" is a little like Zeno’s paradox to the extent that it proposes an almost infinite set of increments all demarcated by the spectroscopic change of colors. The complexity is increased by the interplay of the outside world and the changing hues that are produced inside the structure. At times you look out of the oculus onto a blue sky, but as the evening progresses you may find yourself at the event horizon of a black hole.

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