‘I Want to Bring the Sky Down’: Watch Artist James Turrell Craft Extraordinary Works With the Radiant Power of Light

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "James Turrell: 'Second Meeting.'" © Art21, Inc. 2013.

As we settle into winter, the waning daylight hours are becoming more and more precious. Pioneering light and space artist James Turrell has spent his entire career trying to help viewers understand and appreciate that fleeting light as something valuable, on par with gold or silver.

In an exclusive interview with Art21 filmed back in 2013, Turrell reflects on his journey to make art experiences through harnessing the power of light.

“It’s not something that you form in the hands, like wax or clay,” he says. “You don’t carve it away like with wood or stone. You don’t assemble it like welding.” 

Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "James Turrell: 'Second Meeting.'" © Art21, Inc. 2013.

Production still from the Art21 “Extended Play” film, “James Turrell: ‘Second Meeting.'” © Art21, Inc. 2013.

After bouts of experimentation, Turrell landed on the idea of the skyspace, where a square patch of a ceiling in an enclosed space opens up into the heavens, allows visitors to peer through void and into the sky.

In the video, he sits and contemplates the sky in his work Second Meeting, which was originally installed at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 1986.

I want to bring the space of the sky down to the top of the space you’re in, so that you really feel at the bottom of the ocean of air,” he tells Art21. “We do create the reality in which we live.”

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series Extended Play, below. The brand new 10th season of the show is available now at Art21.org. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series like New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.

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