Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Olafur Eliasson's Funhouse

The fifth floor of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art downtown has been redesigned from floor to ceiling by the Icelandic installation artist Olafur Eliasson, and because the reviews have been so interesting (click here and here for Tyler Green at Modern Art Notes gushing intelligently about the show), I finally dragged myself down to see it thanks to an invitation from the brilliant cultural commenter Patrick Vaz (click here to get to his blog, "The Reverberate Hills").

The reason it had taken me so long to get to the show which opened in September and closes in late February is that I hate the new Museum of Modern Art Building. For some reason, it gives me both agoraphobia and claustrophobia, neither one of which is a problem for me usually. In any case, getting off the elevator on the fifth floor Monday afternoon and being plunged into a yellow-lit room which made everyone look like zombies did nothing to assuage my symptoms.

The entire floor consisted of a series of installations, some more successful than others, that played with light and shapes and perception. Probably the most spectacular was the kaleidescope of light and shapes that Eliasson constructed around the "turret bridge" which crosses from the stairwell to the main galleries of the fifth floor, and which has been known to cause serious acrophobia. (Patrick, for instance, refuses to walk on it.)

Because it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and plenty of people were off work with children who needed something to do, and SF MOMA is the only major museum in town that is open on Monday, the museum was jam-packed, and there were lots of kids running around having a blast. The exhibit has a definite Exploratorium feel and is perfect for children.

I wasn't as enthusiastic, partly because the little rooms got claustrophobic fast, and also because there were some awful smells, possibly from the room with a fine water mist creating rainbows with the water collecting on rubber pads that seemed to be suffering from mold.

Still, it was interesting enough that I might go back when there aren't so many people, and if you do go to the museum don't miss the shockingly fabulous photos of Canadian Jeff Wall on the fourth floor. They use the technology of illuminated advertising kiosks in a totally subversive manner, and made me very happy.

1 comment:

pjwv said...

Mike! Thanks for the fun lunch, and I'm sorry you didn't like the Eliasson more. I'd say it was because it was too crowded, and that might be part of it, but I loved the yellow light and you didn't, so it's probably not just the crowds.
I used to be able to walk across that turret bridge, but I just can't do it anymore. The guard was trying to persuade me by telling me not to look down (in fact, to hold the exhibit brochure under my chin to block the view) but that seems like something that might work on a not-too-bright canary -- and shouldn't the museum be trying to encourage my sense of architecture in space? Anyway, I definitely want to go back and spend more time with the Jeff Wall -- let me know if you want to join me. . . .