May 4, 2021

Refreshing the Oculus on James Turrell’s Knight Rise

Maintenance and upkeep of the Scottsdale Public Art Permanent Collection is a full-time job, and each artwork requires something different. Recently it was time to do a “tune-up” on the James Turrell skyspace Knight Rise at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). Check out a time-lapse video of the maintenance below and a bit more information on the work being done, as described by Wendy Raisanen, curator of collections and exhibitions for Scottsdale Public Art.

Time-lapse of scheduled maintenance for Knight Rise by James Turrell.

It’s important to keep the edge of the skyspace’s oculus as clean, sharp, and smooth as possible to preserve the magic of Turrell’s vision. Scottsdale Public Art’s former preparator, Daniel Funkhouser, has patched any irregularities in the edge and is sanding it smooth. He’ll paint it with Rosco Supersaturated white paint. We want the attention to be focused on the beautiful azure blue of the sky, so the edge seems to disappear.

Did you know this isn’t the original oculus of the skyspace? Initially, it was formed by a metal oval. The edges where the metal met the drywall of the ceiling had different expansion rates with the rise and fall of outdoor temperatures. This created cracking between the different materials, and the ceiling didn’t stay smooth. We had to take off the entire top of the skyspace and create a new oculus made from a single material: architectural foam covered in a polymer concrete.

— Wendy Raisanen, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, Scottsdale Public Art

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