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.