President Awards James Turrell the National Medal of Arts

by Paula Newton July 29, 2014

turrellArtist James Turrell received the 2013 National Medal of Arts from President Obama during a White House ceremony on Monday. The Houston Chronicle referred to the light artist as a “Houston-centric” since he has more public installations in Houston than in any other U.S. city

Houston’s first major blast of Turrell was the 1998 exhibition James Turrell: Spirit and Light at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Soon after, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) commissioned him to create The Light Inside within the tunnel to its new building. In 2000, he installed one of his famous Skyspaces at the Live Oak Friends Meeting House. In the past few years, Turrell installations have been popping up all over the world, including Rice University and the University of Texas at Austin. When the MFAH held a major retrospective of his work last year, Turrell told the Chronicle, “Houston has done all right by me.”

In yesterday’s ceremony, the President introduced Turrell (the only visual artist in this year’s group) with this description: “Capturing the powers of light and space, Mr. Turrell builds experiences that force us to question reality, challenging our perceptions not only of art, but also of the world around us.” To all the honorees, he said, “The moments you help create—moments of understanding or awe or joy or sorrow—they add texture to our lives. They are not incidental to the American experience; they are central to it—they are essential to it.”

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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