Arts Desk

Vitamin A: James Turrell, “St. Elmo’s Light”

Occasional considerations of a piece of art on view in town (or in this case, the Eastern shore)

Entering the room that contains James Turrell's "St. Elmo's Light" feels much like entering his installation, Milk Run, at the Hirshhorn. As you step into the darkened hallway, you may feel reluctant to continue, perhaps for fear of tripping or bumping into someone. It's a design that's purposely and practically disorienting. Place a hand on the wall to feel your way to an entrance. As the room opens up, you'll see a large purple rectangle at the opposite end of an otherwise empty gallery.

The rectangle is accompanied by two yellow spotlights, which sparely illuminate the walls. The contrasting colors create a subtle vibration, and the vibration creates an appearance of breathing: The purple gets a bit darker, then a bit lighter. The effect stems from your eyes adjusting to the light.

You're welcome to touch the rectangle, but you might soon realize that there's nothing there—no wall, no object. The purple is an illuminated hollow with no apparent end. A void. This is slow art defined, asking for little more than a space for contemplation.

The work is on view to July 7 at Academy Art Museum, 106 South Street, Easton. Admission $3 for nonmembers. Free for children under 12.

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