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Pomona College Celebrates James Turrell's First Publics Skyspace in Southern California

CLAREMONT, Calif.—Pomona College is pleased to announce an exhibition and symposium for a Skyspace created by Pomona College alumnus (1965) James Turrell. This will be the first Skyspace in Southern California to be regularly accessible to the public.

Turrell—an internationally acclaimed light and space artist and the architect of Roden Crater—has completed private commissions for Skyspaces in Southern California in the past, but none of them are available for public viewing. The new Skyspace, located in the Draper Courtyard of the new Lincoln and Edmunds Buildings on the Pomona campus, has been realized in collaboration with consulting architects Marmol Radziner + Associates AIA.

The exhibition and symposium offer audiences an in-depth look at Turrell’s work—work that was profoundly influenced by his undergraduate studies at Pomona College in perceptual psychology and mathematics. The academic buildings surrounding the Skyspace house the College’s departments and programs related to the science of mind—such as computer science, psychology, neuroscience and cognitive science—as well as the earth sciences of geology and environmental analysis.

“We are honored that James Turrell has created a work for the courtyard of the Lincoln and Edmunds Buildings,” says Pomona College President David Oxtoby. “He is a distinguished alumnus of the College, and his intellectual concerns—an art grounded in the psychology of perception—are central to many of the academic disciplines housed in the new building complex.”

The Skyspace—a precisely designed architectural installation that heightens the viewer’s awareness of light, sky and the activity of perception—is the form for which Turrell is renowned. Building on this formal vocabulary, the artist has created an open, transparent courtyard space in which a floating metal canopy shades the seating area and provides a frame for the sky. During the transition from twilight to full night, lighting elements, programmed to change in intensity and hue as they wash the underside of the canopy, create the changing perception of sky as space, form, object and void. A shallow pool centered beneath the opening to the sky mirrors the daytime sky and reflects a dark echo of the night sky.

In honor of the new Skyspace, the Pomona College Museum of Art will present James Turrell at Pomona College, an exhibition uniting the various threads of Turrell’s artistic practice. The exhibition includes End Around, one of the artist’s Ganzfeld works; two LED Tall Glass works from 2006, Gathered Light and Silent Leading; and a selection of models and drawings. The exhibition opens Tuesday, September 4, 2007 and continues through May 17, 2008.

The Tall Glass pieces consist of a core of LEDs individually programmed by Turrell to create a subtle shift in color over time, similar to the deliberate but beautiful fashion in which the sky changes from late afternoon to night. However, the careful construction of these works ensures that the viewer sees only a floating, changing field of light—a subtle revelatory experience of photons as tangible entities and physical presence.

In a Ganzfeld space, depth, surface and color are replaced by a thick, all-encompassing mist of light. Upon entering the chamber of End Around, the visitor instinctively approaches what appears to be a faint wall of light in the distance. But upon reaching the light source, the viewer’s entire visual field is consumed by an apparently limitless field of blue light. Turrell engineers the Ganzfeld works to eliminate all visual cues that the human brain processes to construct depth and surface. As a result, the viewer is unable to tell whether the ethereal blue field seen from the platform extends for inches, feet or into infinity. Here, light is perceived as light, not as illumination on an object or surface.

“The exhibition and Skyspace define the issues that have animated Mr. Turrell’s distinguished career—the complex interplay of light, sky, atmosphere and human perception,” says Kathleen Stewart Howe, Sarah Rempel and Herbert S. Rempel ’23 Director of the Pomona College Museum of Art. “We are delighted to have this important and inviting work of art as the centerpiece of a dynamic academic cluster where it can play a vital role in our intellectual community.”

In conjunction with the exhibition and dedication, Pomona College will host a program titled James Turrell: Knowing Light on Saturday, October 13, 2007, 1:30–4 p.m. The program includes Michael Govan—CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art—as the keynote speaker; William Banks, Professor of Psychology at Pomona College, on perceptual psychology; and a conversation with Turrell and Arden Reed, Arthur M. Dole and Fanny M. Dole Professor of English at Pomona College. The symposium is free and open to the public. (See details below).

Turrell is a native of Los Angeles who grew up in Pasadena, California. He received his undergraduate degree in perceptual psychology from Pomona College in 1965, and an M.F.A. from Claremont Graduate School in 1973. His work has been recognized with a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant,” a Guggenheim Fellowship, and multiple grants through the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2001, Turrell received an honorary doctorate from Pomona College. His creations have graced the halls and collections of institutions throughout the world, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the DeYoung Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, P.S.1 and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Turrell currently resides in Flagstaff, Arizona where he has worked for more than 30 years on his largest and most ambitious project—the Roden Crater, an ancient volcano crater that he is molding into one of the world’s most unusual and compelling light observatories.

James Turrell at Pomona College
September 4, 2007 through May 17, 2008
Pomona College Museum of Art, (corner of College and Bonita Avenues), Claremont
Gallery Hours: Tuesday–Friday, 12–5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 1–5 p.m.
Free admission (parking on the street – College and Bonita Aves.)

For information: 909.621.8283 or visit
For directions visit:
(Metrolink station is just two blocks away).

Symposium – James Turrell: Knowing Light
Saturday, October 13, 2007, 1:30–4 p.m. Reception to follow.
Keynote speaker Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Bridges Hall of Music, 150 E. Fourth St., Pomona College, Claremont
For information: 909.621.8283 or visit
(Reception to follow the symposium. 4:30—7:00 p.m. at both the Museum and the Skyspace)

The Skyspace will open for visitors on Saturday, October 13.
Draper Courtyard, Pomona College (corner of 6th Street and College Way), Claremont
Public Hours: The public is invited to visit the Skyspace on Sundays and Mondays, 10:00 a.m.—8:00 p.m. The lighting program is synchronized to sunset.
Groups of 10 or more must make arrangements with the Museum.

For information: 909.621.8283 or visit
On October 13 only, the parking structure at 156 E 7th Street, immediately adjacent to the Skyspace, will be available for public parking.


Established in 1887, Pomona College is widely regarded as one of the premier liberal arts colleges in America. Located 35 miles east of Los Angeles in Claremont, California, Pomona College is the founding member of The Claremont Colleges, a consortium of seven independent institutions blending the intimate atmosphere of small colleges with the academic and social resources of a university.

Contact: Carolyn Campbell, Susan Martin
Campbell Communications
310.659.5427 /
310.975.9970 /
Cynthia Peters, Pomona College
909.621.8515 /