Phoenix Public Art: Air Apparent

An otherworldly sculpture and public art installation in Phoenix pushes viewers to ponder the color of the sky. Air Apparent is a Turrell Skyspace installation, located on the campus of the University of Arizona Tempe. Today, we’re taking a closer look at the work, from its inception to its impact on viewers today.

Artist James Turrell has been making Skyspaces since the 70s, earning international recognition for his innovative work. Air Apparent, installed in 2012, is no less impressive. The immersive art experience is a wondrous structure that frames the sky, using LED lights to “optimize color perception at sunrise and sunset.” Turrell himself describes the concrete and steel structure as “a specifically proportioned chamber with an aperture in the ceiling open to the sky.” The experience for the viewer, then, becomes a surreal rumination on their own perception, grounded only by the work’s alien architecture. 

The ASU Skyspace is the third in the area, but the only one that’s open 24/7. Located at the intersection of Rural and Terrace roads, ASU President Michael Crow has declared the artworks’ proximity to “three of the most sophisticated science facilities on Earth” as anything but accidental. One of the nearby buildings, the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 4 (ISTB4), is renowned for designing instruments to enable scientific exploration of other worlds. The labspace includes public outreach areas to invite visitors into the scientific and engineering challenges that invigorate studies of Earth and the universe.

Air Apparent was designed by Turrell in collaboration with architect William P. Bruder, and is set in a desert garden designed by landscape architect Christy Ten Eyck. We’re wowed by the installation’s architectural feats and the deeply thoughtful way it relates back to the surrounding environment — you just have to see it to believe it. 

Alexander Calder Day

On a fall day in October of 1974, Chicago unveiled a majestic new piece of public art: a grand steel archway in a striking red color. Alexander Calder’s Flamingo officially made its mark on Chicago’s Federal Plaza, and has been an icon ever since. In honor of the sculpture’s debut, October 25, 1974 was dubbed “Alexander Calder Day,” and featured a circus parade to celebrate the artist’s great contribution to the city and to the greater world of art. 

Although Alexander Calder Day officially occurred 46 years ago, Calder’s impact is still monumental, both in Chicago and around the globe. Alexander Calder’s legacy includes collections at notable museums around the world, large scale public works and a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President Gerald Ford (although the Calder family boycotted the ceremony). And Flamingo has its fair share of fame as well (even earning a scene in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).

Still shot from Ferris Bueller's Day Off with Calder's Flamingo in the background

Whether it’s his work hanging in our own buildings or his impactful public artwork, we hold Calder’s work and legacy in high honor. From our team at Optima, Happy (slightly belated) Alexander Calder day!

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