James Turrell at the site of the Roden Crater.
|Born||May 6, 1943
|Works||Roden Crater, Acton|
|Influenced by||John McLaughlin|
James Turrell (born May 6, 1943) is an American artist primarily concerned with light and space. Turrell was a MacArthur Fellow in 1984. Turrell is best known for his work in progress, Roden Crater, located outside Flagstaff, Arizona, where he is turning a natural cinder volcanic crater into a massive naked-eye observatory.
Turrell was born in Pasadena, California. His father, Archibald Milton Turrell, was an aeronautical engineer and educator. His mother, Margaret Hodges Turrell, trained as a medical doctor and later worked in the Peace Corps. His parents were Quakers.
James Turrell obtained a pilot's license when 16 years old. He subsequently flew supplies to remote mine sites and worked as an aerial cartographer. He received a BA degree from Pomona College in perceptual psychology in 1965 (including the study of the Ganzfeld effect) and also studied mathematics, geology and astronomy there. Turrell received an MA degree in art from Claremont Graduate School, University of California, Irvine in 1966.
Main article List of James Turrell artworks
In 1966, Turrell began experimenting with light in his Santa Monica studio, the Mendota Hotel, at a time when the so-called Light and Space group of artists in Los Angeles, including Robert Irwin and Doug Wheeler, was coming into prominence. By covering the windows and only allowing prescribed amounts of light from the street outside to come through the openings, Turrell created his first light projections. In Shallow Space Constructions (1968) he used screened partitions, allowing a radiant effusion of concealed light to create an artificially flattened effect within the given space. That same year, he participated in the Los Angeles County Museum’s Art and Technology Program, investigating perceptual phenomena with the artist Robert Irwin and psychologist Edward Wortz. In 1969, he made sky drawings with Sam Francis, using colored skywriting smoke and cloud-seeding materials.
Turrell is best known for his work in progress, Roden Crater. He acquired the crater in 1979. Located outside Flagstaff, Arizona, 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.
In the 1970s, Turrell began his series of "skyspaces" enclosed spaces open to the sky through an aperture in the roof. A 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. 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 (1986) at P.S. 1, which consists of a square room with a rectangular opening cut directly into the ceiling, is a recreation of such a meeting house. In 1992 James Turrell’s Irish Sky Garden opened at the Liss Ard Estate, Skibbereen, Co Cork, Ireland. The giant earth and stoneworks has crater at its centre. One enters through a doorway in the perimeter of the rim, walks through a passage and climbs stairs to enter the Irish Sky Garden. Lay on the central plinth and look upwards to experience the sky framed by the rim of the crater.”The most important thing is that inside turns into outside and the other way around, in the sense that relationships between the Irish landscape and sky changes” (James Turrell). Other Skyspaces include the Kielder Skyspace (2000) on Cat Cairn, England, and Second Wind (2005) in Vejer de la Frontera, Spain. Three Gems (2005) at the de Young Museum is Turrell's first Skyspace to adopt the stupa form. At Houghton Hall 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.
Turrell 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. His work Acton is a very popular exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. 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.
|“||I feel my work is made for one being, one individual. You could say that's me, but that's not really true. It's for an idealized viewer. Sometimes I'm kind of cranky coming to see something. I saw the Mona Lisa when it was in L.A., saw it for 13 seconds and had to move on. But, you know, there's this slow-food movement right now. Maybe we could also have a slow-art movement, and take an hour.||”|
Turrell was given his first solo show at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1967. Solo exhibitions have since included the Stedelijk Museum (1976); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1980); Israel Museum (1982); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1984); MAK, Vienna (1998–1999); Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh (2002–2003).
In October 2009, the “Wolfsburg Project,” Turrell’s largest exhibition in Germany to date opened and continued through October 2010. Amongst the works featured in the “Wolfsburg Project” is a "Ganzfeld," a light installations that cover 700 square meters in area and 12 meters in height. A major retrospective will open at four different venues in 2013: the Academy Art Museum in Easton, MD opening in April, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opening in May, and both the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York opening in June.
- City of Anhirit
- Trace elements: Light into space
- Ghost Wedge
- Heavy Water
- Into the Light
- Milk Run
- Unseen Blue
- Big Red
- Stuck Red and Stuck Blue
In April 2009, The James Turrell Museum opened at the Bodega Colomé in the Province of Salta, in Argentina. It was designed by Turrell after Donald Hess, the owner of the Bodega and owner of a few of Turell's works, told him he wanted to dedicate a museum to his work. It contains 9 light installations, including a skyspace (Unseen Blue), and some drawings and prints.
Turrell's work is represented in numerous public collections including the Tate Modern, London; the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the de Young Museum, San Francisco; and the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
In Japan, Turrell's works are exhibited at several large museums, including the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa and a permanent installation at the Chichu Art Museum at Benesse Art-Site in Naoshima. At the latter, Turrell's work "Afrum - Pale Blue" (1968), "Open Field" (2000) and "Open Sky" (2004) are displayed. As part of the Naoshima town exhibitions, his Minamidera ("Southern Temple") was designed together with architect Tadao Ando. Also, in Tokamachi, Niigata, Turrell's "House of Light" has a view of the sunrise through the open roof that has been described as "the almost imperceptible change into deep blue was incredibly moving."
Turrell has received numerous awards in the arts including The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1984.
- 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)
- L'homme qui marchait dans la couleur (The Man Who Walked in Colour) by Georges Didi-Huberman. (ISBN 2-7073-1736-0)
- "Passageways" DVD published by Centre Pompidou Paris : a presentation of the Roden Crater project
- Art 21: James Turrell, Live Oak Friends Meeting house, PBS Documentary, Biography in text and online clip.
- works + conversations interview of James Turrell
- Article from ARK Finnish Architectural Review)
- EGG interview with James Turrell
- Into The Light: A Conversation with James Turrell by Elaine A. King
- Birthplace sometimes given as Los Angeles (for instance, see Adcock, Craig, James Turrell: The Art of Light and Space, Berkeley/Los Angeles/Oxford : University of California Press, 1990, p. 2). Pasadena is given in a biographical note to the introductory leaflet for the 1993 exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, South Bank, London, UK.
- Adcock, Craig, James Turrell: The Art of Light and Space, Berkeley/Los Angeles/Oxford : University of California Press, 1990, p. 2.
- Biographical note to the introductory leaflet for the 1993 exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, South Bank, London, UK
- James Turrell Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas.
- James Turrell: Early Light Works, November 13, 2004 – February 12, 2005 William Griffin, Los Angeles.
- James Turrell MoMA Collection, New York.
- James Turrell Guggenheim Collection.
- James Turrell: Meeting, 1986 P.S.1, New York.
- James Turrell: Three Gems, 2005 de Young Museum, San Francisco.
- Donald, Caroline. "The new garden at Houghton Hall, King’s Lynn, Norfolk," The Times (London). May 11, 2008.
- Sarah Douglas (October 24, 2005), In Their Words: James Turrell and Andy Goldsworthy, ARTINFO, retrieved 2008-04-21
- Baker, Tamzin."James Turrell / The Wolfsburg Project." Modern Painters, November 2009.
- Rawlings, Ashley."Staying in James Turrel's House of Light." PingMag (Tokyo). Aug 21, 2006
Further reading 
- Nancy Marmer, "James Turrell: The Art of Deception," Art in America, May 1981, pp. 90–99.
- Wolfgang Metzger, "Optische Untersuchungen am Ganzfeld." Psychologische Forschung 13 (1930) : 6–29. (the first psychophysiological study with regard to Ganzfelds)
- Authorized James Turrell Website
- Google Map of James Turrell Installations
- Biography, interviews, essays, artwork images and video clips from PBS series Art:21—Art in the Twenty-First Century – Season 1 (2001).
- Knowing Light exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery
- Mattress Factory exhibition by James Turrell
- BBC article about James Turrell
- 43 Places: James Turrell[dead link]
- Flickr: jamesturrell
- Roden Crater 1978
- Roden Crater on Google Maps
- Jonathan Jones writing in the Guardian about the Kielder Skyspace
- Virtual tour in the Roden Crater project by University IUAV of Venezia, Italy
- http://www.fundacionnmac.org/english/coleccion.php?id=117 [James Turrell at the NMAC Foundation_Cádiz_Spain]
- James Turrell Perspectives exhibition at the Academy Art Museum