Olafur Eliasson: Take Your Time

Olafur Eliasson
Take Your Time
9/8/07 – 2/24/08

written by Patrick Dintino in San Francisco, California

The majority of one floor is dedicated to the ethereal work of the Icelandic artist Eliasson, curated by Madeleine Grynsztejn for SFMOMA. Much of the exhibition is a collaboration between science and art, with references to the natural forces of water, light and space.

Reminiscent of the 'abstract perceptualists' of LA's 'Cool School' of the 1960's including Robert Irwin and James Turrell, some of the work was merely projected geometric shapes of white light(Turrell) or florescent lights against a wall (Irwin).

The artist used light projected onto pools of water to create reflections in dark single-room installations, that would seem to fit better in the S.F. Exploratorium than an art museum. All of this was preceded by a room of copper wire maquettes of DNA shapes, complex spirals and combined geometric forms stacked on shelves to look like a surreal but clean laboratory.

While the visceral experience of these installations was fun for a few seconds, it struggled to reach beyond what has already been exhausted by the ephemeral artists of the 60's and 70's.

What stood out as truly successful were the more sculptural works where Eliasson's ideas seemed to be more developed and refined as in the molecular-like sculpture 'Multiple Grotto' which one could walk into the middle and look out into the room which was reflected by the sides of angular portholes.

Similar in form and reflection was the 'One-way Color Tunnel', a pattern of interlocking triangles reminiscent of Buckminster Fuller's Geodesic Dome which stretched over the SFMOMA footbridge. My Favorite piece in the show was probably the smallest one which was called Sunset Kaleidoscope', a glass circle suspended from a string contained in a window box to the outside.

The circle was clear on one side and yellow on the other and as it slowly spun it was at first invisible then the yellow circle would appear and reflect off the sides of the box. All the while the background was a fuzzy window to the outside world. All three of these works spoke to me of the touch of the human hand on nature and our inability to control it.

No matter how advanced our technology, we must continually gaze in wonder at the mysteries of perception, and contemplate our link to the universe.