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The Artist Who Inspired Drake's 'Hotline Bling' Video Has a New, Mind-Bending Installation

Conceptual artist (and Drake fave) James Turrell's perception-bending 'Stewart Island' is on view at Frieze London this weekend.
October 6, 2016, 3:26pm

'Stewart Island' by James Turrell. Photo courtesy of Kaye Griffin Corcoran

In a video interview released this week with the Washington Post, the 73-year-old artist James Turrell revealed that he's "enjoyed a lot more attention" ever since Drake admitted to being a huge fan and featured a kind of ode to Turrell's work in last year's viral music video for "Hotline Bling" (958 million views and counting). When asked what his favorite Drake song was, Turrell laughed and responded, "This is very interesting. You can think you can have self-importance by involvement in the art world, but popular culture is so much more."

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This Thursday, Frieze London follows suit, but with actual Turrell, courtesy of the artist's gallery Kayne Griffin Corcoran. The Los Angeles gallery's booth at the influential art fair exclusively features Turrell's work, including an installation piece called Stewart Island —an oblong oval installed in a white cube of a room that changes colors very gradually over the span of three hours. Like much of Turrell's work, the piece plays with your sense of perception; the oval appears to be limitless, depth immeasurable. It's intended, according to Turrell, "to be mesmerizing, like a fire, that you can lose yourself into." (Smaller prints of the artist's work are also for sale, as a metonym for a Turrell experience.) "This really is a continuation of Turrell's work," said Bill Griffin, a co-owner of his gallery who was present at the Frieze preview on Wednesday. "It's taking the idea of playing with light and perceptual experience. And it's tied into where our culture is heading, it's not zeros and ones, it's a virtual world."

'Cape Hope' by James Turrell. Photo courtesy of Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Since the 60s, Turrell has been working on turning the experience of seeing into concrete works of art. With a background in perceptual psychology, Turrell learned how to manipulate both space and light, as opposed to working with more traditional materials—his goal, as he is often quoted saying, is in trying to capture the "thingness" of light. He's experimented with projectors and LEDs, and like his contemporaries such as Douglas Wheeler, Robert Irwin, and Mary Corse, he is associated with the Light and Space movement that came to prominence in Los Angeles around that time. There is both a meditative quality to Turrell's work, a nod perhaps to his Quaker upbringing, as well as a sensibility that can feel at moments like looking at the sky or the horizon, which some credit to his experience as a pilot. In recent years, thanks in part to the curatorial efforts of Los Angeles Country Museum of Art's Michael Govan, who helped organize Turrell's 2013 highly instagrammable shows at both LACMA and New York City's Guggenheim, Turrell has garnered a lot more attention from pop culture and those who would otherwise be unfamiliar with his career.

Drake and Turrell both say they did, in fact, meet each other while Turrell's show was on at LACMA. And in an interview with Rolling Stone, Drake revealed his love for the artist's work by saying, "I fuck with James Turrell." But back in October, when Drake premiered the "Hotline Bling" video of him dancing alone in rooms that changed hues from pink to purple to blue, Turrell issued a statement saying, "Neither I nor any of my woes was involved in [its] making." Either way, perhaps attendees of the London fair can enjoy a mini Drake moment of their own.

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