Liz Ashe at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
I overhear an agent say – “This would be best for a hotel” as he moves his clients away from The Fivefold Memory of the Color Mantra (2020), to see Eliasson’s smaller works around the corner in the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery booth at Art Basel, Miami. At first, I wondered about Eliasson and scale, and how he uses it, as an environmental activist, in his practice. In a hotel, it would reflect décor and emptiness, reflecting guests passing through the space, engaging or not, speaking or not speaking.
The Fivefold Memory of the Color Mantra is a large piece and dominates a wall, as a swirl out from a central pale yellow sphere, radiating out in four layers and five lines, colored using multiple layers on the back third of each piece. If you look from the side, they look like a vessel with clean, separated oils. From the innermost yellow, they turn from amber, deepening to red, to purple as they shrink in size. Individual spheres drop into their holder, affixed to the wall. They reflect what they see. The viewer glides from being captured by one, then into the next. For a moment I imagine the wall as a disembodied fly, a Cyclops multi-fractal eye looking out at us. Does it care as it multiplies, inverts, and feeds compressed images back to us? The reflection across each sphere is a reality check – a ‘You are Here’, but not as a mirrored, check-your-hair kind of reflection. Instead, it makes you aware of your body in space. Ultimately, Eliasson’s work succeeds brilliantly, and simply, in making the viewer aware of themselves in an environment. It multiplies the perspective of the viewer in more ways than (we) can even track.
Around the corner, are three glass pieces. Deine Sonnenenergie (2022) is an individual, neutral, mirrored sphere. One eye, one observer, colorless and easier to track it’s vision. Two others Long Distance Melt and Purple to Yellow are beside each other on one wall. Sheets of glass resting on cut driftwood, they look like considered and curated sections of colored ice. They are a reality check of color, how mismatched cut holes (Long Distance Melt) amplify and make new colors based on their overlapping sheets of glass, and how purple and yellow (Purple to Yellow) are complimentary yet don’t always have to muddy when they are placed together in a gradual, visually weighted way in a sheet of glass.
In the Nieugerriemschneider Galerie booth is another Eliasson. A sphere suspended a few feet off the ground, with (maybe) thousands of set triangles, reflecting a warm yellow, almost pink and then green, light. One was installed at the Hirshhorn Museum this year. These atmosphere-changing lamps began many years ago and have formed from multiple shapes in the last decade. These recall several schools of modern art, astronomy, and chandeliers, forming a new and radiant kaleidoscope together. I would call it a sun, if there was ever a sculpture worth its likeness.
Now, Eliasson is thinking big. Beyond Basel, his Shadows Travelling On The Sea Of The Day monumental site-specific installation north of Doha and done in collaboration with Qatar Museums, opened a month ago. Made of twenty mirrored shelters and individual rings, the installation is an awe from the distance in the desert. As a shelter, it protects from the sun, but not the wind nor sand. As such, the dynamics made by the mirrored ceiling create a microcosm to behold. Posted on his studio Instagram, the work “is a celebration of everything being in and moving through the desert … animals, plants, and human beings; stories, traditions, and cultural artefacts; wind, sunlight, air, and shimmering heat. Looking up at the mirrored undersides of the work, you will come to realise that you are, in fact, looking down – at the earth and yourself. Above and below, sand envelops you, together with anyone else sharing the space. It is a kind of reality check of your connectedness to the ground.” I can imagine it working in any setting, enabling the viewer to see what is around them from a different perspective. And sometimes, we all need a new perspective; seeing what we should already know. Expanding perspectives is one of the few ways to understand and work on reducing global warming. Eliasson’s work is activism and aesthetic at any scale. Even better, it’s a bit addictive to view when you’re up close.