If flying saucers exist, Houston has a new landing strip: the portal of the just-unveiled James Turrell Skyspace, aka the Suzanne Deal Booth Centennial Pavilion, which was inaugurated days ago at the Rice University campus, along the axis that runs between the Sallyport and the Shepherd School of Music. One of the artist’s largest such creations, it joins the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s vaporous light tunnel and the Quaker Live Oak Friends Meeting House skyspace to make our town a true Turrell destination. But this site-specific public-art piece, five years in planning and one year in production, is the game changer. Unlike the MFAH artwork, which requires museum admission, or the Quaker commission, which has limited access, this is the most democratic and ambitious Turrell to date. The artist’s 73rd skyspace (and one of his largest) represents the distillation of the light-and-land talent’s deeply held, almost hermetic beliefs about time, space, perception and the concept of other worlds. Seating up to 120 people, the university’s Twilight Epiphany is also titled in honor of Booth, trustee, alum and former protégé of both Dominique de Menil and Turrell, who gifted the seven-figure artwork to Rice. Molly Hubbard, Rice’s art director, propelled this futuristic endeavor forward. With double-decker viewing stations, the open-to-the-sky pyramidal structure with its 12-foot-high grassy berm, 72-by-72-foot elevated roof and 14-by-14-foot oculus does indeed resemble a spacecraft. Open to the public free of charge during the summer (every day but Tuesday; fall hours will be announced at a later date), the skyspace’s LED-enhanced light shows take place 40 minutes before sunrise and again at sunset. During the day, the pavilion is open for viewing and contemplation. Lift off! For reservations (required for sunset shows) and complete calendar, skyspace.rice.edu.
IMAGE: James Turrell’s Twilight Epiphany Skyspace, Suzanne Deal Booth Centennial Pavilion, 2012, at Rice University. Photo courtesy Rice University.