Critics’ Picks

Olafur Eliasson, Seu corpo da obra (Your Body of Work), 2011, foil, wood, spotlights, dimensions variable.


Olafur Eliasson

Moderna Museet | Stockholm
October 3–January 17

Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition “Reality Machines” serves as both a retrospective, including almost twenty key pieces from across his career, and a successful display of the modernist cohesion between art, architecture, and design. It is useful to consider the works here as discrete objects and then create an overarching narrative where multiple works relate to one another. The artist places significant responsibility on the viewer to determine the works’ individual and collective meaning.

This show is motion-oriented and keenly engineered to focus on human beings’ spontaneous, improvised engagement with both potential and kinetic energy. Eliasson’s wide range of materials—manipulations of light and water, found objects from nature, plastic foils, and filtered glass—take the form of installations or sculptures that occupy numerous spaces throughout the show. All the works are hypersensory, yet specific pieces resonate strongly in the body and mind, such as Seu corpo da obra (Your Body of Work), 2011, in which one waltzes through a labyrinth of monochrome, semitransparent color filters of magenta, cyan, and yellow that overlap to create different color schemes depending on one’s position, or Big Bang Fountain, 2014, a flowing water fountain sequestered in a dark room and viewable only for split-second intervals. The latter might even invoke seizure fits in response to its flickering light source. With so many gestures and approaches to perceiving both the natural and man-made worlds considered here, it becomes clear that the artist’s ideas continue to influence others who make and enjoy visceral works founded upon mutual trust between the viewer and the creator.