Step into the light. All are welcome!

I’ve heard architect snobs snidly refer to the rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum as a parking ramp. It features a floor that gradually winds up six stories. Exhibits are mounted along the length of the walk (in the case below, a Kandinsky retrospective).

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The same idiots who call the rotunda a parking ramp have referred to the exterior as a giant toilet bowl. I think the building is beautiful, inside and out.

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James Turrell uses the rotunda as his canvas. He has worked since the late 1960’s with light as his primary medium. His installation, Aten Reign, is a brilliant example of how environmental art can envelope you. A white fabric scrim was installed in the rotunda and colored lights are projected onto it. Viewers are seated on the ground floor in seats that are angled up towards the rotunda, or they lay down on a huge futon in the center of the room.

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One of its designers describes the work as a stack of five giant lampshades as seen from the inside.

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The colors slowly move across the spectrum, the full cycle taking about 60 minutes. Each level is a different hue of the base color.

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Lying down and starring into the slowly changing light is a meditative experience. The ground floor and visitors fade away. You’re pulled into the work and lose your sense of time and place.

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None of these photos have been retouched in any way. It really does look this bizarre.

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There are four other light pieces by Turrell in this exhibit, which I will post photos of later. They’re interesting, but they don’t have the breadth or impact of this main showcase piece. How could they?

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There’s no limit to the amount of time you can spend in the rotunda. People wait patiently for a spot to open and when someone finally gets up to leave, they pounce. The exhibit is a huge hit, as you can imagine. If you’re a museum member, you can attend private “quiet hour” sessions after the museum closes. If you’ve always been curious about psilocybin mushrooms, this might be a good place to experiment.

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I am highly susceptible to this sort of spectacle. I willingly give myself over to the artist’s vision. It took several minutes but I lost myself in the piece/peace. I forgot my troubles and floated up into the slowly-changing colors. To enhance the experience, I did what anyone who grew up in my generation would do:

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Peek-a-boo, bitches. The exhibit runs through September 25th. Come to town and I’ll get you in for free. Don’t ask me how I can do it. Just be glad I can do it.

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53 thoughts on “Step into the light. All are welcome!

  1. The first thought that pop up after seeing that first picture was, “Thou shalt not bring enemies in this museum. One push is all they need…”

    I would love to come there and get your freebie. But I happen to live eight thousand miles away so perhaps I’ll wait for the next offer.

    • The crazy thing about that rail is that it’s only a little more than waist high. I can’t believe that nobody had toppled over the side yet. I get vertigo if I stand too close to the edge up on the fifth or sixth level.

      8,000 miles is a long haul, for sure. But it’d be worth your time + money. You wouldn’t forget it, that’s for sure.

  2. Once again I must thank you for the art tour. God! I’m so glad I know you. 😉
    (Missed the G. as they were hanging the new show and the ramp was closed.Next time!)

    • We did pretty well over in Brooklyn, didn’t we? I hadn’t even MENTIONED the Sargent retrospective. Can you stop over on your way to Vancouver? Admittedly, a bit out of the way but it’s a pretty good installation.

    • How do these guys come up with this stuff? That’s what I want to know. It’s surprising how well the music fit the visuals. A feast for the eyes + ears.

    • You’re betraying your age, sir! But I, too, remember Time Tunnel. Right after that was Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. I think they were both Irwin Allen productions. Quick! To YouTube!

  3. Oh how I wish I could take you up on your offer, my dear,,,,,This looks soooo Wonderful! I could really give myself over to this experience, Bigtime!
    I LOVE this Museum, too….I think the building is Sublime!!! One of the Great Great Buildings of the world! And it lends itself to “ART” in such a truly spectacukar way….Paintings and Sculpture, and this most unique happening going on there right now.

    • This is a very easy installation to lose yourself in. It’s effortless! Had you been to the Guggenheim in your years here? You make an excellent point about the building being a work of art unto itself.

      • Indeed….! I have been there many times—especially in the 1960’s….I LOVE the building….! And it is like walking into a work of Art. As to this particular show—it sounds like such a healing experience. And the Color gradations are right up my alley…!
        You asked what Camera I am using….It is a Fuji FinePix S8000. And I love it.

  4. Hurrah!. Somewhere I’ve been.
    What a glorious idea and a great place to meditate. I’m tempted to jump on a plane but then I’m waiting for Norton Help line to get back to me.

    • It really is a meditative experience! I lost myself for a little bit and only got up because of an appointment. Otherwise, I might still be there.

      To hell with Norton. Get thee to Heathrow. I know a little nook where we can yap over a proper cup of tea.

    • Hello, Jo! Long time. Hope you’re well. Yes, It is a pretty amazing installation. I had a hard time pulling myself away but I had an appointment. Plus, I started to feel guilty about taking up a seat for such a long period of time. People were standing around for quite a while and I like to be a reasonable chap, whenever possible.

  5. Congrats on becoming a Carnie! I imagine I would like this, though I might skip the Pink Floyd with it. I had an excellent time at the Laserium in Seattle years ago, accompanied by AC/DC.

    • Thanks for your congrats! I think it’s awesome. It’s incredibly generous of him to use his popularity to promote other, lesser known, sites.

      Laserium???!! Good heavens. Now…where’d I leave that bong? Seriously. I used to have a black porcelain bong in the shape of a human skull with the business end sticking out of the top. OF COURSE I misplaced it all the time.

    • This place definitely has its charms but I want to mention that I came out of work last week and walked by a passed-out derelict on 54th Street with his pants down and stuff hanging out. So there’s that to consider.

      • well, yes, there is that, but i have been to NYC before, sweetpea and a derelict with his junk hanging out in your town beats the same in my little town anyday! 😉

      • I don’t know about that. It was pretty awful. I felt bad for any tourist who stumbled across him. Seriously, I almost called the NYPD.

  6. i would absolutely LOVE this! i’m obsessed with solid state (LED) lighting, and all of the artistic uses that have come out of this luscious,energy efficient technology! not sure what sound track i’d use, but could easily spend hours there… even on the communal futon. something pretty awesome about THAT, too!

    • I stayed off that futon. I would have drifted off to sweet sleepy land. An article said the installation was more technologically complex (and expensive) to mount than people realize. A winner.

  7. I would LOVE to take my 14-year old daughter to see this. She was bothering me to see the Rain Room at MOMA but we couldn’t do the six hour wait that day. Her first museum visit was to see 99 Wolves so she has a special love for the Guggenheim. Unfortunately, the summer is slowly ticking away…

    • Rain Room is a shit exhibit. Go outside during a rainstorm and open an umbrella. Walk around. Same thing. People are caught up in “needing” to see it. It’s all hype. You’re not missing a thing.

      99 Wolves, on the other hand, was superb. Wasn’t that the same exhibit that had the stuffed tigers shot by dozens of arrows?

  8. As you know I don’t normally have a lot of time for modern art, but the light show looks fantastic, and mesmerizing. My only problem is that it looks too relaxing, and being thrown out of the Guggenheim for snoring too loudly would not look good on my CV.

    • A lot of modern art is off-putting. I, too, have a tough time with large blank canvases that are deemed a “masterpiece.” But installations like this one are so accessible it can be enjoyed by everyone. It shouldn’t be such a bloody chore.

  9. Ye gads, that looks fantastic.

    I don’t think they’re architect snobs who say those things, regardless of what they think of themselves, they’re twats who think being negative makes them look smart. Not that there’s anything wrong with a toilet bowl, as Duchamp showed.

    • No. They’re snobs.

      I’m not a fan of Duchamp, although my brother is crazy about his work. But I’m no snob. Just so we have that clear.

  10. Well I’d love to but it will cost me just shy of £600 to get there in the first bloody place.

    It should be brought to the British Museum and reconstructed specifically for my benefit. NO! The tate..more fitting. I would go AWOL in that colour scope. I like how you can have special, one hour, peace time if you’re a museum member. That’s terribly lovely.

    • The turbine hall at the Tate would be perfect for this exhibit. Did you see Ai Weiwei’s porcelain sunflower seeds? I missed that but was lucky enough to see Carsten Höller’s big slide.

  11. Now I have some kind of undstanding of what Carrie Bradshaw’s boyfriend, Aleksandr Petrovsky (Mikhail Baryshnikov) lighting exhibit in Paris would of been about and why it was so cutting edge to the critics. Another TV sitcom story solved. Seriously, I finally visited the Guggenheim in May and it was great.

    • Wow! That’s an obscure reference. Well done, Tom. Hope you enjoyed your visit. As I’ve said before, the building itself is a piece of art.

  12. This would have been awesome to see. Such a beautiful beguiling building – totally agree with you. Just hope you had some other accompaniements to help out your appreciation of Floyd (not that they need much).

    • I know exactly what you’re referring to and it’s probably better that I didn’t have some other accompaniements with me. It doesn’t agree with my system anymore. I get terribly paranoid. I probably would have assumed everyone was starring at me and ran out of the building screaming.

  13. Pingback: City of Narcissists and Art | Exile on Pain Street

  14. Pingback: There is peace and serenity in The Light | Exile on Pain Street

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