James Turrell (b. 1943 Pasadena, CA) is an American artist known for his installations that explore the perception and materiality of light, color, and space. Raised in Pasadena and educated at Pomona College in perceptual psychology, Turrell is considered the leading artist of the Light and Space movement that originated in Southern California in the mid-1960s.

In 1966, following his graduation from college in 1965, Turrell moved to a building in Ocean Park, California, formerly called the Mendota Hotel. There he created a series that explored light’s ability to alter people’s perception of space. He organized this body of work into groups based on the structure and the ultimate perceptual effect. For example, his well-known 1967 work, Afrum I (White), belongs to the category Cross Corner Projections, which consists of glowing cubes that appear to float in the corner of a room. These cubes first appear as solid objects, but as viewers approach, the cubes turn into simple planes of light.

In 1974, Turrell left Ocean Park and moved to Flagstaff, Arizona. In 1979, he began construction on one of his most well-known works, the Roden Crater, which remains in progress to this day. The Roden Crater is an extinct volcano in the desert outside of Flagstaff, which Turrell intends to transform into a sprawling naked-eye observatory. While creating light spaces, natural observatories, and installations at the site, he also produced works on paper. In portfolios of etchings, Turrell often explores how light is transmitted through the aquatint technique. This is seen in his work, First Light (1989-90), which outlines geometric shapes with black ink. His prints and works on paper often reveal his thought-process and the construction behind the three-dimensional installations.

Turrell’s work has been the subject of major exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany, MAK, Vienna; MASS MoCA, North Adams; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. His work is included in major public collections, among them the the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and Tate Modern, London.