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Light is the element that unites art, architecture and nature as a whole, and no Western artist has explored that unity more spectacularly than James Turrell, in a series of constructions he calls skyspaces:

Second Wind, 2005, NMAC Foundation, Vejar de la Frontera, Cádiz, Spain — Photo by Florian Holzherr

Turrell is often referred to as the American master of light and space. In the skyspaces, advanced lighting systems are programmed to interact with the changes of natural light coming from the sky through the opening in the roof, especially at dawn and dusk, which creates endless variations that blur the lines between nature, architecture and the visual arts.

Third Breath, 2005, Zentrum für Internationale Lichtkunst, Unna, Germany — Photo by Florian Holzherr

The experience has been variously described as dreamy, poetic, cosmic, contemplative, and even religious. It all depends on the way you look at it, and that’s part of the point.

As Turrell wrote when he created the Within Without skyspace for the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, his work “is about space and the light that inhabits it. It is about how you confront that space and plumb it with vision. It is about your seeing, like the wordless thought that comes from looking into fire.”

Unseen Blue, 2002, James Turrell Museum, Bodega Colomé, Salta, Argentina — Photo by Florian Holzherr

Within Without, 2010, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia — Photo by John Gollings

The Within Without structure — Photo by John Gollings

Turrell has created dozens of other works and installations, but his skyspaces stand out as the most striking fusion of architectural, natural and artistic light.

Open Sky, 2004, Chichu Art Museum, Naoshima Island, Japan — Photo by Florian Holzherr

Piz Uter, 2005, Hotel Castell, Walter A. Bechtler Stiftung, Zuoz, Switzerland — Photo by Florian Holzherr

At this time there are over thirty public skyspaces throughout the world, on nearly every continent. Find one near you, and if you can, go see the sky in a frame of light.

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