James Turrell First Light 1989-90

  • Not on view

First Light is a twenty-part retrospective of the artist’s planned projected-light installations of 1966–67. The portfolio is divided into five subsets, each of which pictures a single shape of light (square, triangle, rectangle, parallelogram, or column) projected against a wall or corner; in this set, a cube seems to change position and shape from sheet to sheet. Turrell collaborated with a master printer known for his work with aquatint, a technique that allows for the use of tone rather than line; here, a rainbow of grays creates a dramatic sense of light, darkness, and space.

The artist considers First Light to be his most important printmaking project; while other works on paper are "about" his installation work, he has said, First Light is uniquely "like" his work. This set is a substantial complement to Turrell's works in other mediums in the collection, including the permanent site-specific installation Meeting (1986), at MoMA PS1, in Queens—a meditative room with a massive rectangular skylight cut into its ceiling.

Gallery label from New to the Print Collection: Matisse to Bourgeois, June 13, 2012–January 7, 2013.
Portfolio of twenty aquatints
plate (each approx.): 39 3/16 x 27 3/16" (99.5 x 69.1 cm); sheet (each approx.): 42 1/2 x 29 3/4" (108 x 75.5 cm)
Peter Blum Edition, New York
Peter Kneubühler, Zurich
artist's proof before the edition of 30
Gift of Peter Blum (by exchange), Committee on Prints and Illustrated Books Fund and The Contemporary Arts Council
Object number
© 2024 James Turrell
Drawings and Prints

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