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 pioneer of the Light and Space movement, who is the subject of the gallery's 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.
Maggie Kayne, already an art world force at 28, said she's been "obsessed" with Turrell since she first experienced one of his Skyspaces-which are typically minimalist chambers with apertures that opens to the sky--at investor James Goldstein's house in Beverly Hills. She partnered with Turrell's L.A. gallerist Bill Griffin and James 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."
At the opening, Kayne family and friends buzzed about, including her 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 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
Photo: Stefanie Keenan, courtesy Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles