Known best for a large-scale artwork located at Flagstaff, Arizona's Roden Crater, Turrell is also notable for his Stuck Red/Stuck Blue installation and for his Aten Reign light projections exhibition.
After earning his bachelor's degree from Pomona College, he began his graduate study of art at the University of California, Irvine, and later earned a master's degree in visual art from Claremont Graduate University.
During the 1960s, he was arrested for encouraging other young men to avoid being drafted into service in Vietnam.
He grew up in Pasadena, California, as the child of physician Margaret Hodges Turrell and engineer Archibald Milton Turrell. He was raised in the Quaker faith.
He collaborated with Japanese architect Tadao Ando on a sculptural work called the Minamidera.