James Turrell's Sky Spaces


‘Although the paths are enclosed by high walls the effect is to draw the eye upwards to the sky overhead - that familiar expanse of blue newly framed by Turrell’s beautiful, curved structures’


Last year whilst on holiday in California, Rachael visited James Turrell’s Sky Space in the de Young Museum’s Osher Sculpture Garden in San Francisco. She reflects on the experience below:

James Turrell’s San Franciscan sky space is situated in the modest gardens of the de Young Museum, tucked away down a gently sloping concrete path shaded by bamboo trees.

Turrell leads you down and as you reach the bottom of the slope and enter the sky space, the path splits into two circular walkways that maze-like, lead away from one another, forcing you to choose a direction. The cold grey of the exterior is replaced by a warm dusky pink that soaks up the sunlight and throws out shadows over the pathways. Although the paths are enclosed by high walls the effect is to draw the eye upwards to the sky overhead.

The paths re-connect on the opposite side of this circular space, in-front of the entrance to Turrell’s inner concrete nucleus – an entirely round room with a high domed white ceiling in which sits an oval aperture open to the sky.

Turrel considers the sky his studio, material and canvas. Through the manipulation of light, he is asking you to re-look at that expanse of blue, newly framed by Turrell’s beautiful, curved structures. To re-consider the familiar in an unfamiliar space. To reflect on the power of perspective and the presence of space.  

There are now over 80 sky spaces across the world, including ones in Cornwall, Norfolk and Yorkshire in England. You can see the full list here and hopefully plan a visit soon.

Rachael Cooney1 Comment