DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.


First Image: Penetrable at LACMA, Second Image: MOCA “Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space” Exposition, DEC 12, 2010 – FEB 27, 2011.

Argumentative Essay


Color through space


Color is an element that can produce synesthesiac sensation in the viewers and is mostly understood as an element that is part of the constitution of objects and space. With color you can define space dimensions and also can play with the viewer’s eyes. The discussion about color as an element of space perceptions and sensation will be debated with the artists works: The "Penetrable" by the artist Jesús Rafael Soto produces a discussion about color, space and movement. Soto  has his artwork exhibited in various museums internationally, such as LACMA and MOCA. His installation produces sensorials perceptions in the audience that it interacts, same happens with the works of artists James Turrell “Warm Front” and “Breathing Light, and Erwin Redl, Matrix  

The "Penetrable" by Jesús Rafael Soto, at MOCA was part of the “Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space” Exposition, which is the first museum exhibition of Latin American artists that large scale installation that works with color, light and space.

Jesús Rafael Soto is a venezuelan artist, his works of three dimensional sculptures consist of an installation that discusses space dimension and movement, uses color to create an  immersive environment that gets audience to interact.  

The “Penetrable” exhibition is configured of a metal platform that hangs various of colorful plastic cables, that when seen in a distance by the viewer gives the illusion of been of the materiality of a pure solid. When the viewer “penetrates” this illusory surface formed by hanging cables, the interacts in a different way not only visually with the installation, but also tactically, experiencing a different atmosphere. His work of art seems to be static, but its experimental interaction offered to the audience suggests and creates movement.

The use of color can be related to the Impressionist movement idea of color as an element of traducing sensations and perceptions of the environment, in Jesús Soto installation gives an optical and tactile experience to the viewer, it is “a question of purely optical experience as against optical experience modified (...) by tactile associations” (Art in Theory, Page 756).  

Color can be seen as construction in this productions, specially in Turrell installation. Lyubov Popova in “Statement in the Catalogue of Tenth State Exhibition”, affirms that Color “participates in energetics by its weights”(Art in Theory, page 310-311), this can be understood that color makes an impact on the viewer perception by its intensity and contrast. Similar to in Turrell by the contrast by the gradation of the colors chosen, assembled by illusion of volume. The Construction defined by Popova as the combination of all parts: Surface, Line and Color is part of the subject of matter in Turrell’s installation. His work is revealed by the combination of colorful light that produce illusionistic surfaces.

Also, the installation dematerialized the viewer perception depending on the distance between the viewer and the art piece. When the viewer sees the piece at a further distance, he has the illusion of materiality created by the visual union of all the suspended cables that seems to form a solid. In opposition, when he approaches the piece and interacts with it, walking through the spaces between each cable (negative space) produce a different perception to the audience, which loses its dimension and presence movement.

As in Erwin Redl piece the interest in playing with the eyes perception of the space around it, is created by the installation use of negative/empty spaces between the projections of light or monochromatic cables between them.

“Warm Front” (1974) and “Breathing Lightby James Turrell is a minimalist exploration using light as the medium, working with space, volume and scale to create a new reality. The work of the artist is part of the Southern California Light and Space movement of the 60s and 70s. Turrell uses light as a physical medium. The artist plays with light in spaces creating an environment that tricks the viewer perception of the space depth and surface. As Calvin Tompkins (New York critic) wrote, “His work is not about light, or a record of light; it is light — the physical presence of light made manifest in sensory form” (James Turrell Website). Turrell understands color and space in a physics and an astrological approach, he creates an atmosphere that uses  and the idea of infinite spaces. The physical definition of color is the reflection of all the spectrum of light expect of the color we see, which is absorbed by the object. “The color only exists in the mind of the beholder, the object don’t have color” (The Physics Hypertext). Turrell works with this physical notion, in which each viewer interacts and percepts the color and space in its own way.

Furthermore, the installation produces an interaction of the viewer with is owns sensorials behaviors.The viewer has the sensation of losing dimension of the space, of not knowing what is material, what is real surface. The artist creates the illusion of infinite, by working with smooth edges and gradation of light.

Similar to Turrell’s installations, Erwin Redl uses Led light as his medium to create a virtual space. The installation consist projecting various vertical fillets of lights in the space that gives the illusion of movement. The viewer have the sensation of being in a virtual reality atmosphere. As the proper name defines it as Matrix, you can feel that the installation can be an allusion to the movie Matrix, because it gives the sensation of computer simulation and creates ambience of science fiction. Erwin installations can be seen as based on  the “Light and Space” movement. Creates a perceptual and sensorial experience depending on the position you are at the installation. Furthermore, Redl plays with the perception of space around the observer. The monochromatic space and spectacles of light give the sensation of ethereal surface and infinite movement.

The use of color as part of the artwork discussion in James Turrell,Erwin Redl and Jesús Rafael Soto can be seen as a way of producing sensations in the viewer. Color understanded by Turrell as a physical element particularly perceptive by the viewer eyes. The way that the viewer interacts with the artwork is also a point of this installations, to produce sensorial motions in “The Penetrable” as same as in “Warm Front or Breathing Light” and Matrix. All the installations gives the audience a synesthesiac interaction. The sensation of movement is another element of discussion in this installation, given by the vertical lines in Soto’s and Redl producing the sensation of infinite movement, and in Turrell given by the smooth edges delimited by the colors variations.

Artist used for the discussion:

  1. James Turrell, Wedgework IV - “Warm Front” (1974)  and “Breathing Light

Image 1: http://jamesturrell.com/artwork/wedgework3/, Image 2: http://archive.jamesturrell.com/, Image 3: Videoclip of the Artist Drake performing in James Turrell ‘Breathing Lightinstallation


2) Erwin Redl, Matrix, 2007

Image 4: https://myspace.com/acegallery/mixes/classic-erwin-redl-2007-544141




HARRISON, C. and WOOD, P. ART IN THEORY 1900-1990, An Anthology of Changing Ideas.

Clement Greenberg, “Modernist Painting”, Page 754-760.  

Lyubov Popova (1889-1924) Statement in catalogue of “Tenth State Exhibition”, Page 310-311


Physical Color Definition, The Physics Hypertext,http://physics.info/color/

TOMPKINS, Calvin (New York critic) extract: “His work is not about light, or a record of light; it is light — the physical presence of light made manifest in sensory form”, James Turrell Website, http://jamesturrell.com/about/introduction/

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.