LAS VEGAS -- A Louis Vuitton-commissioned James Turrell installation, which recently opened at the French luxury brand's City Center store here, is not only one of the most intimate and unexpected ways to experience the artist's oeuvre, it may just be the best antidote we've found yet to counteract the swirling, light-caused disconnectedness of Sin City chaos.
Titled "Akhob," (a word from Egypt's Amarna period that means "pure water," according to a guide), the permanent installation, which opened on the fourth floor of the Louis Vuitton boutique last month, is the largest of Turrell's "ganzfeld" (light field) installations to date. It consists of two chambers, each with a circular opening, and a pattern of slowly changing light, which repeats every 24 minutes.
Viewers are suffused in a shifting palette of vibrant pinks, electric blues and a peculiar shade of orange that makes the circular orb space at the room's center look like the surface of the sun itself. At times the edges of the two chambers are clearly visible, at other times they bleed into a disorientingly uniform field of color.
Although I'm certainly no art critic, and my knowledge of Turrell's oeuvre prior to "Akhob" consisted of a partial walk-through of his current LACMA retrospective (though in fairness that included being slid, MRI-like, into a metal sphere called "Light Reignfall" where, for about 12 minutes psychedelic kaleidoscope images swirled, eddied and broke like waves over my optical nerves), I can say from personal experience that after a day and a half in Las Vegas, I've yet to find a better course correcter than a half-hour stint bathed in the glow of "Akhob." Pure water indeed.
"Akhob" is the latest of three projects commissioned by Louis Vuitton, including a modular, light-based sculpture called "First Blush, Oct. 2005" that was created for Vuitton's Champs-Elysées flagship store, and a series of 2006 photographs juxtaposing one of the brand's iconic wardrobe trunks against the Arizona desert landscape of Turrell's ongoing Roden Crater project.
Open since May 2, viewing of the installation is free and open to the public, but limited to four people at a time (private parties can have up to six), so reservations must be scheduled in advance.
"Akhob" at Louis Vuitton City Center, 3720 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas, appointments available daily from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays) by calling (702) 730-3150.