Recent Acquisition: Turrell’s Afrum (White)

Every year, LACMA hosts the Collector’s Committee, a group of donors who join together to purchase a handful of objects on our curators’ wish lists. The artworks up for acquisition are installed for the committee’s review; for fun, we staffers get an early look and cast our own ballots ranking favorites. This year, I was the first person in the galleries. I don’t know what I was more excited about—the prospect of basking in James Turrell’s Afrum (White) or the chance to opine on it. You see, I am a Light and Space Fiend. In fact, I even created a Facebook page to celebrate my love. You can thus imagine my jubilance to find that the Turrell made the cut.

James Turrell, Afrum (White), 1966, purchased with funds provided by David Bohnett and Tom Gregory through the 2008 Collectors Committee, © James Turrell, photo by Florian Holzherr

I’m interested in the way Afrum, as with other Light and Space objects, challenges viewers’ perceptions. What appears to be a floating cube is actually projection magic—simply, elegantly, powerfully, a light on the wall. The artist once said, “In working with light, what is really important to me is to create an experience of wordless thought, to make the quality and sensation of light itself really quite tactile.” That quote leaves me almost as breathless as the object itself. The provenance is an added bonus. Afrum‘s original owner was a Torrance, CA-based aerospace scientist with whom Turrell and Robert Irwin worked from 1968-71 on LACMA’s Art and Technology exhibition. If you don’t know about that pioneering show, check in tomorrow to learn about the unusual collaborations that emerged as a result, as well as the delightfully candid accompanying catalogue.

Allison Agsten

2 Responses to Recent Acquisition: Turrell’s Afrum (White)

  1. Nice piece. Congrats, LACMA … I’m looking forward to checking in tomorrow to learn more.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I read your post today. Did you go to the conversation between Michael and James last year? The work that you mentioned, as I recall from an interview I read, was actually first conceived by Turrell in his studio in the Ocean Park neighborhood of Santa Monica. In its preliminary stages it was a blue cube, not white, though. He cut a precise, hexagon-shaped form into a corner of the second story to create this effect with the color of the sky. What was his studio at the Mendota Hotel in the late 60s and early 70s is now a Starbucks (the one on Main St., near Baldessari’s studio). You can actually make out where he did it if you look close enough – the brick façade is a bit uneven after the repairs.

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