James Turrell

Frontal Passage

1994
Not on view
Medium
Light
Dimensions
12' 10" x 22' 6" x 34' (391.2 x 685.8 x 1036.3 cm)
Credit
Douglas S. Cramer, David Geffen, Robert and Meryl Meltzer, Michael and Judy Ovitz, and Mr. and Mrs. Gifford Phillips Funds
Object number
185.1994
Copyright
© 2015 James Turrell
Department
Painting and Sculpture

Throughout history, the artist has been a shaper of matter, whether the pigment of an image or the solid substance of sculpture. A Frontal Passage, like other works by Turrell, breaks from those ancient traditions in that it has no mass. Instead, Turrell shapes light.

An interest in a dematerialized art object appears in a range of work from the 1960s and 1970s—in Conceptual art, for example, which posits art more as language and idea than as visual form. But Turrell differs from the Conceptualists in the absorbing sensual power his work commands. He is closer to the Minimalist sculptor Dan Flavin, who also worked with light; but where Flavin would incorporate not only the light of fluorescent tubes but the tubes themselves into his art's appearance, the fluorescents in A Frontal Passage are obscured. The spec-tacle is light itself, given the illusion of palpable shape.

To view A Frontal Passage, the visitor passes through a darkened entryway into a chamber, also dark—but divided diagonally by a radiant yet crisply defined wall of red light. Instead of diffusing freely from one side of this wall to the other, the light ends abruptly in space, as if it had density. The power of the work lies in this paradox, in which nothingness gains physical presence.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 343

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Image permissions

In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053; requests@artres.com; artres.com. Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124; firenze@scalarchives.com; scalarchives.com.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

Related links:
Outside North America: Scala Archives
North America: Art Resource