Awash in Pure Color
James Turrell’s Akhob (which you will be told is an Egyptian term for “pure water” when you arrive from the store elevator to the little sitting room on the 4th floor) is located atop the largest USA Louis Vuitton store. It is located at the Crystals Mall in Las Vegas between Aria and the Cosmopliton Hotels.
AKHOB is an immersive, ethereal Op-art installation that will submerge you into one of the artist’s, “ganzfelds,” or “light fields.”
It is serene.
It is meditative.
It is James Turrell.
It is a 24-25 minute cycle of color changes, and I wish it were longer. I could see an hour of silent prayer and spiritual reflection within Akhob—if one could be there alone—but the exhibit usually groups 4-6 people per time slot and those times slots are for a single rotation of the color fields.
Turrell’s interest in light as a medium is a beautiful metaphor and medium for his spiritual faith as a Quaker. My friend Brian wrote an article about it after we had attended the exhibit with his son, Cailan: Definately read it for a background on James Turrell and Brian’s recap of AKHOB from the link below.
Rather than rewrite my thoughts, I am pulling from a quote I gave Brian for his article for Assist News: “I consider AKHOB to be the best artwork found in Las Vegas. It is rare to see art so pure as to be transcendent, crossing all religions, genders, nationalities, cultures, and languages. Furthermore, AKHOB goes beyond activism, agendas, and propaganda. Turrell is one of the artists whose work achieves a philosophical quality and enters the realm of pure intellectual and sensual beauty. He touches on the spiritual beyond religious description while coming as close to nature as art gets. A masterful synthesis using light as the medium.”
I have been five times now, by myself and with friends. And here is how I like to experience AKHOB :
The first part of this method is to reserve the day’s last showing. Spend quiet time inside the ganzfield, maybe move slowly through the chambers, being absorbed into the color changes and simultaneous color contrasts created by the differently lit rooms: note the optical effect and the silence – let the soft pure color wash over you and let your nerves calm, deep breaths, relax. Note how you feel as the colors slowly change around you. The point is to be present and not distracted. Different colors induce different feelings and physical orientation. Because the rooms are “infinity” rooms (like cyc walls one finds in a photography studio—infinity walls/coves, without hard corners), there are no points of reference to a horizon or boundaries – just standing in a field of beautiful light hues – staring adds to the effect of the infinite. Light is the medium, and you are inside the artwork.
The second part is stepping back into the early evening of the Las Vegas Strip, noting the contrast into what I would call Aggressive Light Noise. Juxtaposing the two experiences can be profound, depending on how deeply you want to consider and compare the two environments. At any rate, I hope there is a “wow” moment in this for you.
What makes AKHOB so unique is the way it plays with perception and sensory experience. The installation is designed to make you feel like you are floating in a sea of light, with no reference points to orient on. The effect is both disorienting and incredibly calming. Outside on the Las Vegas Strip can also be disorienting and certainly not calming, but exciting. But maybe not in the best of ways.
Overall, James Turrell’s AKHOB is a unique work by one of the artistic giants of our time, especially amidst the Las Vegas glitz. It must be experienced to be fully appreciated. It is an artistically masterful example of light as art. More pure than paint. When in Las Vegas, it’s worth a visit.
But if you can’t get in to see the show, you can still experience a Turrell. Just across the Crystals Mall at the elevators and tram station is another Turrell install. You can get a taste of his visual op-art there (one Aria concierge said he preferred this to AKHOB), so take your pick or see them both (we usually do both – the elevator/tram installation is a fun photo op and there are no time restrictions or reservations). But do know this: Turrell’s Optical Light Art is best valued with full immersion taking time to slow down enough and observe how color affects all around it and how color can change one’s mood and with that, perception.
Louis Vuitton would not allow me to take photos for this blog, but Turrell is worth the see – so the links below will give you an idea.
Brian Nixon Article on AKHOB: https://www.assistnews.net/pure-water-in-the-desert-james-turrell-s-akhob/
A James Turrell Video (among many more to be found at right—this video is in German with English subtitles and gives you a great idea of what the ganzfeld experience is like -from a video point of view – NOTHING like actually being immersed): Get a taste here on YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWekIcZaKns
I am told You may contact the AKHOB City Center Team to make reservations: 702-730-3150 however, I was also told reservations can now only be made by email – (which I wasn’t provided). Try the phone number and go from there.