James Turrell

United States of America  born 1943

Born in Los Angeles, Turrell was raised as a Quaker. As a young man he learnt to pilot planes and to work on aircraft, later using these skills to finance his projects. He studied psychology, mathematics and art history, then completed graduate studies in art. From his first light sculptures using flames, Turrell began to construct artificial light projections that formed geometric shapes in existing spaces. Since the mid-1970s, he has devoted his energies to the creation of a naked eye observatory in a extinct volcano on the edge of the Painted Desert, Roden Crater.

During the 1980s and 1990s Turrell developed projects which expose visitors to complete darkness or isolate an individual within a contained space. Initially much of the work was temporary; as his reputation grew and his architecture became more complex, permanent installations were created for private collectors, corporations and museum collections. Turrell lives and works in Arizona, New York and Maryland.

See more works by this artist in the NGA collection

James Turrell Shanta II (blue) 1970 Purchased 2014 Learn more