The exhibit "Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson" takes up the entire top floor of the SFMOMA, and the artist has paid particular attention to making a colorful first impression however you get there. Ride the elevator and you emerge into an entry so drenched in yellow light you forget there's any other color in the world. If this were a nightclub, it would be called Yellow. Opt to take the stairs and you're heaved upon the museum's famed catwalk, which Eliasson has framed with hundreds of colored glass planes, ushering you psychedelically into his light-art Wonderland. One room is curved into a circle like a sci-fi pod, with colored light slowly coursing across the arcing wall. After experimenting with viewing angles, most people end up pressed against the surface, noses brushing it, lost in a full ocular wallop like drug addicts. The pure color influx is overwhelming, hinting at the intersection of the real and imagined. Eliasson also creates remarkably simple and elegant pieces with that most fundamental architectural design element, the water feature, and it's hard to imagine someone like Larry Ellison not buying his stuff up whole for the pool house. You start by walking down a wood-plank hallway covered with hexagonal tiles into pitch-black darkness. It feels very Pirates of the Caribbean or Southern California Chart House. Notion Motion takes up a full wall screen, in which bands of light flow and vibrate as people press down on bowed planks in the floor (move behind the screen and the simple mechanism is revealed: The pounding makes a bed of water ripple, casting reflections). In another room, a gentle spray of water falls from a perforated hose on the ceiling and is shot through with beams of light, creating hypnotic, luminous rainbows. You can get close enough to feel the mist. You can also get close enough to get fairly drenched (which brings up an interesting twist on museum courtesy: Is the water the art? Can you step completely into the art, say, if you were looking to cool off?). Deceptively simple, Eliasson creates work that is far less fleeting than his medium.
Sept. 8-Feb. 24, 2007