Just in time for the arrival of recreational marijuana, a massive new light and sound installation by Icelandic Danish artist Olafur Eliasson has opened in Los Angeles.
Atty. Gen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions might be annoyed, but “Reality projector” is a smashing immersive environment guaranteed to elicit an immediate “Oh, wow” from visitors — pot or no pot. Then, slowly but surely, it unfolds in your eye and mind, deepening into a meditative reverie. Initial amusement transforms into something closer to illumination.
The experience of light becomes enlightenment — which cannot be said about most immersive installations, more often merely brain-numbingly popular entertainments at museums these days. “Reality projector” is the second commission for the large gallery — a former theater — at the Marciano Art Foundation near Hancock Park, and it’s at least as successful as Jim Shaw’s marvelous “The Wig Museum,” which inaugurated the space last spring.
The work is built around highly saturated color produced by shining intense beams of pure white light through monochrome gels. Essentially derived from the film process known as Technicolor, a movie staple launched in rudimentary form a century ago and honed to a fine edge after World War II, the installation resonates against its Hollywood context. Eliasson has deconstructed the process into something new and exhilarating.
Two mechanized, high-intensity light projectors are set on tracks in the theater gallery’s rafters. At variable speeds they slowly traverse the big space, sliding back and forth.
Gels in cyan, magenta and yellow have been inserted into openings between the linear and triangular structural beams holding up the roof. As the tracking light passes through the gels, rectilinear shapes in bright, vibrant colors are projected below onto an enormous screen and set into motion at the far end of the room.
Like an avant-garde animation by Hans Richter or Oskar Fischinger (an avant-garde artist who once worked for MGM), an abstract “movie” of sliding, blooming rectangles, parallelograms, triangles and trapezoids plays across the giant screen — minus the film stock, of course, and blown up to monumental scale. Traditional cinematic editing devices — wipes, dissolves, cuts — are produced by the overlapping, moving shapes, further enlivening the geometric imagery.