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An excuse to visit Crystals Mall: James Turrell’s ‘Akhob’

Renowned L.A. artist James Turrell recently made his Strip debut inside CityCenter, with a permanent installation entitled Akhob, which means “pure water” in Egyptian. The artwork lives up to its aqueous namesake by washing over guests with a shower of monochromatic color. The immersive experience leaves visitors feeling refreshed and renewed.

Akhob occupies 1,200 square feet over the fourth floor of Louis Vuitton’s flagship store inside the Daniel Libeskind-designed Crystals mall. It marks Turrell’s largest “ganzfeld effect” — a visual sensory encounter altering perception through light and space — to date.

Guests enter into two pristine eggshell-like chambers infused with unadulterated light that gently changes hue and tone. Primary colors of green, red and blue are used in slowly changing intervals and shades, serving as an allegory for nature’s four seasons. The colorful dialectic is also a crafty counterpoint to a city born from neon. Only a small handful of people are allowed inside the saturated glowing rooms at a time in order to personalize the affect.

Turrell creates a dramatic procession from a dimly lit elevator vestibule with dark wood floors into an immaculate, high-ceilinged, opaque foyer that acts as a visual sorbet; the space dubbed the Pyramid — in keeping with the Egyptian leitmotif — allows eyes to properly dilate for full color absorption prior to entering the kaleidoscope. Perfectly polished concrete ebony steps skirt the entrance for the elevated, elliptical-shaped ganzfeld rooms, which together measure 77 feet long, 33 feet high and 44 feet wide.

The sense of volume is deafening, reflective and calming. The sequence of spaces psychologically cleanses and prepares visitors for the artwork, which consists of a 24-minute light show that is quietly emotional, dissolutive and introspective. Visitors can lose themselves within a silent contemplative void filled with a spectrum of slowly changing, transformative light. A gently sloping downward floor propels visitors forward through the space, with a small ledge at the edge of the double-chamber. The linked contiguous space works together in unison as an optical lens.

Akhob is the latest of three Turrell creations commissioned by the French luxury brand retailer; the others reside at Louis Vuitton’s Paris store on the Champs-Elysées. The artist is currently in vogue among the art world cognoscenti, with a retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through April 6, 2014, and a one-man show opening at New York’s Guggenheim Museum on June 21.

Note: Attendance for Akhob is by appointment only, Thursday through Monday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and limited to up to six viewers at a time for more individual interaction. It’s the antithesis of school bus tour museums. For more information, call 730-3150.