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Satellite view of Roden Crater, the site of an earthwork in progress by James Turrell outside Flagstaff, Arizona.

James Turrell (born 1943, Los Angeles) is an artist primarily concerned with light and space.


He is best known for his work in progress, Roden Cratermarker. Located outside Flagstaff, Arizonamarker, Turrell is turning this natural cinder volcanic crater into a massive naked-eye observatory, designed specifically for the viewing of celestial phenomena. His other works usually enclose the viewer in order to control their perception of light; a James Turrell skyspace is an enclosed room large enough for roughly 15 people. Inside, the viewers sit on benches along the edge to view the sky through an opening in the roof. He is also known for his light tunnels and light projections that create shapes that seem to have mass and weight, though they are created with only light. As a lifelong Quaker, Turrell designed the Live Oak Meeting House for the Society of Friends, with an opening or skyhole in the roof, wherein the notion of light takes on a decidedly religious connotation. (See PBS documentary). His work "Meeting," at P.S.marker 1marker, is a recreation of such a meeting house.

His work Acton is a very popular exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Artmarker. It consists of a room that appears to have a blank canvas on display, but the "canvas" is actually a rectangular hole in the wall, lit to look otherwise. Security guards are known to come up to unsuspecting visitors and say "Touch it! Touch it!"

Turrell's works defy the accelerated habits of people especially when looking at art. He feels that viewers spend so little time with the art that it makes it hard to appreciate.

At Houghton Hallmarker in Norfolk, the Marquess of Cholmondeley commissioned a folly to the east of the great house. Turrell's "Skyspace" presents itself from the exterior as an oak-clad building raised on stilts. From the inside of the structure, the viewer's point-of-view is focused upwards and inevitably lured into contemplating the sky as framed by the open roof.

In October 2009, the “Wolfsburg Project,” Turrell’s largest exhibition in Germany to date opened and will continue through to April 2010. Amongst the works featured in the “Wolfsburg Project” is "Ganzfeld," a series of light installations that cover 7 square meters in width and 12 meters in height.

Past exhibitions

Skyspace locations


  • Eclipse. Documents The Elliptic Ecliptic and Arcus, two temporary installations accompanying the last total eclipse of the 20th century. (ISBN 3-7757-0898-7)
  • The Other Horizon. An overview of Turrell's development from 1967 to 2001. (ISBN 3-7757-9062-4)
  • James Turrell : the art of light and space by Craig Adcock. (ISBN 0-520-06728-2)
  • James Turrell. Geometrie di luce. Roden Crater Project by Agostino De Rosa. (ISBN 0-520-06728-2)




Further reading

  • Nancy Marmer, "James Turrell: The Art of Deception," Art in America, May 1981, pp. 90-99.

External links

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