Knight Rise, 2001

James Turrell (born 1943): Commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art

Arizona-based artist James Turrell is heralded internationally as one of the most significant artists of our time. For more than fifty years, he has created eloquent, deceptively simple artworks that explore the complexity of light as a medium.

Best known among Turrell’s completed artworks are his Skyspaces. One of these enigmatic enclosures, Knight Rise, is located in the Museum’s outdoor Nancy and Art Schwalm Sculpture Courtyard. Encircled internally with a concrete bench, Knight Rise invites visitors to observe the sky through an elliptical opening in the ceiling. The sharp edges of that opening create the illusion that the sky, rather than hovering above, is descending upon the space. Simultaneously, lights embedded in the walls just above the bench subtly shift one’s perception of the sky’s color. This effect is most dramatic at sunrise and sunset, when the framed sky appears as a tangible, solid substance of pure color. Created in concert with the opening of the Museum in 1999, Knight Rise is part of the collection of Scottsdale Public Art and accessible to visitors free of charge during all open Museum hours.

Turrell’s longest running project is the creation of a naked eye observatory at Roden Crater, an extinct volcanic cinder cone located in Northern Arizona. Although still under construction and not open to the public, this monumental endeavor has held the interest of artistic and scientific communities since it was begun in the late 1970s. Its progress, along with a survey of Turrell’s other artworks, was celebrated in a suite of simultaneous exhibitions in 2013 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.