As a full moon rose over the courtyard at Kayne Griffin Corcoran’s new home on La Brea Avenue last Thursday, guests joked that James Turrell must have ordered it for the occasion. They weren’t that far off: The L.A.-born Light and Space pioneer, who is the subject of the inaugural exhibition, did design the green oasis, from its grassy terrace to the illuminated vines, as well as the skylights inside the galleries and a permanent Skyspace in the conference room (the firm Standard oversaw architectural renovations).
Maggie Kayne, already an art world force at 28, said she’s been “obsessed” with Turrell since she first experienced a Skyspace – typically, a minimalist chamber with an aperture that opens to the sky — at Jim Goldstein’s Lautner house in Beverly Hills. She partnered with Turrell’s L.A. gallerist Bill Griffin and Jim Corcoran in 2011, with a program based on collaboration. “So working with Turrell to do this [new space],” she noted, “was the ultimate first step.”
The current exhibition, “Sooner Than Later, Roden Crater,” features drawings, photographs, models, equipment and ephemera related to Turrell’s magnum opus, Roden Crater, an extinct cinder cone volcano near Flagstaff, AZ, which he is transforming into a naked eye celestial observatory. Four decades in the works, this monumental project is also explored in the concurrent Turrell retrospective at LACMA. Asked if he believed the multi-million dollar project was finally nearing completion, Turrell replied, “This certainly helps.”
Family and friends buzzed about, including Kayne’s sisters, Saree and fashion designer Jenni, who contentedly reclined on a chair in the conference room, gazing up. Artists, curators and power players like Katherine Ross and Michael Govan, Christine Y. Kim, Annie Philbin, Llyn Foulkes, Yvonne Force Villareal and Marin Hopper sampled gourmet tacos, margaritas and pressed juices alongside music luminaries Moby and Rick Rubin, and collectors such as Steve Tisch and Carol Ann Emquies, who pronounced her recently acquired Turrell piece “the best trip to the candy store I’ve ever made.”
Those lucky enough to schedule in advance (or beg the right person) were treated to the full Turrell magic, in the form of a 16-minute, colored light-and-sound program in a meditation room tucked in a back corner of the gallery. The domed two-person structure, a new addition to Turrell’s Perceptual Cell series, immerses viewers in color fields so saturated the eye is unable to focus, creating a sense of infinite space and even a loss of body. Participants are given a “kill button,” just in case, but most emerge smiling.
Rick Rubin and his girlfriend, the actress Muriel Hurtado Herrera, seemed almost giddy as they stumbled back into the main space. So, did the longtime Buddhist find the experience meditative? Rubin shook his head. “It was very beautiful, but it was more like fireworks.”
“I saw so many different colors!” Herrera added. “I kept wondering, is it doing something to my brain?”
No doubt Turrell would have answered with a resounding “yes!”
Kayne Griffin Corcoran, 1201 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. 310-586-6886, kaynegriffincorcoran.com