Of the Projection Pieces that follow, Afrum (White) is perhaps the most symbolic. In this 1966 piece, also produced at the Mendota Hotel and first presented at LACMA’s Art and Technology exhibition in 1971, Turrell’s premise that light makes space rather than simply illuminating it comes to life. Again, using uncomplicated and relatively inexpensive projection methods, a beam of light forms a radiant cube just above the floor in the corner of a darkened room. The walls dissipate and Afrum appears to float in midair. But with one step to the left or the right, or one blink too many, the light retreats and the walls resurface.
Raemar Pink White (1969) is part of the immersive Shallow Spaces series. An immense 50-by-10-foot LED screen lodged in a narrow cavity in the room’s far wall illuminates the space (Figure 2). A rectangle carved from the wall produces a flat and two-dimensional light source. From the rear of the space, radiant particles emit a soft atmospheric cloud, washing away all recognizable boundaries and rendering an unfamiliar and strangely ethereal pool of pink. Nearby is the tripartite St. Elmo’s Breath (1992), which is part of Turrell’s later iterative series Space Division Constructions. At first, the blackened floor looks as though the next step is into the abyss. Once the eyes adjust to the room’s dimness, three quivering figures come into view. A rectangle flanked by two squares of identical proportion and colors are made from incandescent and fluorescent light of varying intensities. Although impossible to touch, they beckon us to try. Soon one discovers that the shapes are not projected onto the walls but are lit portals from spaces beyond. Like Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus, whose body traverses a mirror, if viewers were allowed to plunge their arms through the portals of St. Elmo’s Breath, it might provoke an overwhelming desire to say farewell to the corporal world.