This Light Display Livens Up Bay Street
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This Light Display Livens Up Bay Street

Drake has been inspired by the artist's penchant for trippy colours.

James Turrell, Straight Flush

INSTALLATION: Straight Flush
DATE: September 2009
LOCATION: 333 Bay Street, Bay and Adelaide streets (lobby of Bay Adelaide Centre)

It’s always a bit of a gamble to commission work for the cityscape. Public art coordinators drafted to enlist the talent of artists often have to do the dance of consulting with the community while respecting the artist’s interpretation.

The result? Sometimes the city gets stuck with variations of the same sculptural works. There seems to be too many loopy or curvy objects all over the map, including this non-infinite loop, titled “Things End.”

But with “Straight Flush,” James Turrell’s light show at Bay and Adelaide, the artist is still firmly ensconced in a league of his own.

Turrell remains the undisputed master of lights, having been among the founders of California’s Light and Space movement in the late 1960s, which focuses on the sensory perception of light and space.

“Straight Flush” is a theatre for the mind, with its hypnotic sequence of five colour themes. The five panels on display slowly wind through a series of colourful gradients of light. While they don’t correspond to a particular time of day, the colours have a moody tint to them, from the burst of orange hues that evoke a sunset to the cool blues that leave the space awash in a pool of light.

It doesn’t immediately strike as a piece of public art, intentionally calling on passersby to be moved and stop at the sight of it. And it’s especially hard to pause amid the bustle of the 9-to-5 grind on Bay Street.

We might perhaps be too glued to our own screens for “Straight Flush” to register as art. But if you pause long enough—and manage to snag an unobstructed spot—it makes for a nice backdrop for people-watching and may even put you in a meditative mood.

Oh, and did I mention that Turrell’s trippy lights have long inspired Drake, who most likely appropriated his style for “Hotline Bling?”

Photo: Beatrice Paez

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