Tuesday, 12 August 2008

(100)

OLAFUR ELIASSON VERSUS JORGE PARDO

Both artists specialise in installations, in temporary, site-specific works and commissioned fabrication or ‘readily-mades’ (see also Posts 25 and 49). Both artists prominently exploit architectural features, recent technology or engineering, and arrive at a calculated, theatrical presentation. Yet Eliasson favours an increasingly grand scale, samples a site or buildings against a radical redistribution of lighting, temperature, moisture, vapour or vegetation – is intent upon engineering nature as much as the nature of engineering. Pardo, by contrast, proceeds from details of interior design, from by-gone fashions, nostalgic motifs, colour schemes and accessories; freely revises and repositions wallpaper, furniture, lighting, doors and fittings, to highlight the layers of ornament to functions, the layers of function to ornament.

One is immediately severe and profound, the other slight and scattered, perhaps slightly scattered, even frivolous. Yet both are committed to the plastic potential of design, to greater variations establishing a firmer underlying theme or nature. And both find that greater variation involves an environmental scale, an inclusion of the observer that then involves a literal disorientation or loss. This post traces an overlooked but persistent trait to recent installation, takes their work as actually two sides of the same coin.

Eliasson’s use of light to generate colours for interiors is usually seen as inheriting the Minimalist colour environments of Robert Irwin and James Turrell (as the Los Angeles-based Light and Space movement, of the late 60s). The difference is Eliasson’s indifference to surfaces as a field of unusual intensity for a given colour, a disinterest in contrasts or harmonies or accompanying optical constraints. Instead he foregrounds the necessary equipment, cables, stands, their invitation to shadows and silhouettes of participants, their integration with surrounding architecture. Eliasson uses colour to set a level of visibility and mood for all elements to a site, rather than to construct a static and exclusively pictorial spectacle. His installations are predominantly temporary and changing, allow little of the permanence or ‘purity’ of Irwin or Turrell.

In other respects Eliasson’s work echoes familiar developments throughout the 20th century, with its modular assemblies and symmetrical structures recalling Minimalism (see also Posts 42 and 96), the emphasis upon technology and engineering recalling the long and deep ties with industry and design (see also Post 8). Infact Eliasson can seem more kitsch or superficial than Pardo in his tastes. However the artist’s shiny materials, unlike most earlier uses, are dedicated to environmental interaction, reflect landscape and climate, population and resources and demonstrate a steady symbiosis between building and surrounds, that is usually understood as an embrace with nature. Yet the work is often experienced as somewhat bleak or aloof, no matter how crowded or dynamic. For all their inclusion in the work, the participant or observer has no function beyond idle presence, can admire the engagement with nature, provided others do not get in the way. The desired participation in such generous work ultimately herds people, reflects a dubious conception of involvement or environment. And equally, the artist’s hand or eye quickly retreats into so much co-operation or collaboration, leaves the observer with that much less to observe, more to suspect.

Like the recurring use of ‘your’ in titles, there is the telling motif of the mirror, variously resisting closer inspection or penetration of surface with compelling reflection or deflection, briefly holding subjects spellbound by their own presence, prostrate before the work. As a symbol for involvement or artist, it firmly establishes a one-way relation.

As noted, Pardo’s concerns remain more rooted in interiors, are less subject to gradual developments, the influence of atmosphere or climate, although not exclusively. Initial concerns would seem to lie with identifying style to routine lighting fixtures, such as Raymond Hill Lamp (1990) exhibiting a functioning lamp so that it brackets a style of fixture with a quality of light, this in turn reflected by placement and setting. Other early work co-ordinates sculptural elements with gallery surroundings, as in the installation Hawaii (1995), where various rectangular panels, spread across the floor, share shape and colour relations with the abutting yellow wall and filing panel to the reception desk. The work is thus slyly dispersed; its ‘properties’ detected according to architectural considerations; these further distinguishing differences and alignments amongst floor panels. This approach is common throughout the 90s (see also Posts 46, 76 and 93).

But Pardo is particularly interested in the blurring of function and ornament or style. He has continued to use lamps, striking both for their extravagant or stylish fittings and unexpected placements. The nature of a lamp is thus contrasted with an emphatic flourish of culture or style. Again, it is as much the quality of light that then inflects setting, invokes other qualities to space and furniture, as whimsical design or nostalgia. The artist has similarly applied extreme design to clocks and doors (and here briefly, Pardo and Eliasson’s interests coincide, in a group show at Petzel, NY in 2007). These allow various degrees of function, of separation from the strictly decorative.

The loosening of function, the dispersal of the work into surrounding architecture also has a pictorial or 2-D extension. Pardo’s customised wallpapers for example, exploit computer graphics, introduce complex combinations of pictures that defy standard function as wallpaper, yet refuse any single framing between wall and picture. Elsewhere paintings are devoted to familiar decorative motifs or are predictably adorned with additional paraphernalia, underlining the integration with a wider and widening work.

Typically a Pardo installation looks to amplify affinities or links between an array of modest, domestic elements. Often geometric or biomorphic motifs are echoed or coincide with setting or shadows. Functions to objects are relaxed or resisted, so that one can equally regard a dining table and chairs for amusing and sensual rhythm or crystalline modules as a model for illumination or refraction. The work accommodates all, in part, and yet functions undercut by style and situation at some point immobilize the immersed observer. Where nothing is quite used or useable and style is never settled, the work engulfs its surroundings, blurs its boundaries and includes the observer, only to exclude a vantage point. We regard more stylistically there, but only by retreating from any familiar function, in the end style too dissolves under the withdrawal.

For all the whimsy and reverie to Pardo’s work, like Eliasson’s, it carries a subtle and uneasy view of the implied person, for the smoothly expanding installation, where the observer is given so much to look at, but always when in the way of something else.


Eliasson’s own website has been especially helpful in researching this post.

16 comments:

mostly red said...

Happy one hundred, cap.

I did my online survey for The Guardian yesterday.
They generally do, but I added, verify it with a link ask CAP 

CAP said...

Thanks CP

Jacques de Beaufort said...

I vote for OE

much more magical/spiritual..Romantic even

Pardo is just an artworld Target store

Jacques de Beaufort said...

are you quitting at 100?

what next ?

CAP said...

Next I try and build my own web site. I think a dot net or info deal. If I manage it, I'll link it to this one, as it takes up some art history and theory issues only really implied here.

It will be pretty dry and academic though, just for the specialist or fanatic.

No pictures! A text of around 100,000 words, carefully mapped and in around 20 downloadable pdf chunks, hopefully.

I'm told it's a difficult, technical read in places.

Publish and be damned I say!

Malarky said...

It’s true Pardo plays Target to Eliasson’s Ikea. And Pardo is more like an 8-year-old’s birthday party, while Eliasson comes on as a trade fair pavilion for GE meets stadium rock. Make that Kraut Rock. Both are romantic, idealistic and doomed.

Both strike me as intensely material, coercive and presumptuous. Both think they can subject ‘the subject’ to the subjective, subordinate and subjugate as cause for the superlative and superordinate. Both suffer from the God-complex, the control freaks’ anxiety with their own inadequacies, the big lack at the center, the big black out there.

How scary to be small, huh?

But I dig the managerial impulse. The elevated plain where the best people live, you know, the ones that make all the connections connect? Behind the scenes, above the scenes, they waltz around in designer jeans. Paradise, right? I’ve done jobs up there, fixing stuff up, hiding the wires, as they say. The view was great, but it didn’t elevate me seeing everyone else made small or low. I like my spirituality up-close and personal, below the belt when I can and strictly one at a time.

I’m not into mass baptism, conversion under fire and water from on high. I don’t buy the letter before the word, the word by hearsay or the real estate agent from heaven. I’m into one on one, face to face and extremely unplugged. You think the special light will illuminate? The wrong temperate will agitate? The sound of a thousand drops crystallizing for a nanosecond in free fall is any more thrilling or revealing than the slightest reverie, memory or bright idea?

That’s not spirit you’re buying. That’s spirit you’re selling, before you even know it. And you will never know what a slave that makes you.

I too have wandered in the daze and darkness of another buy-any-old thing, through the canyons of a Serra, looking for an art that’s fairer, only to wait amongst the throng and heed the curator’s broadcast song: “Are you in awe yet? Do you feel the force?” And as I formulate my reply, to the unseen way on high, I realize a tiny gesture of the hand, is all they seek or understand; that to say any more is just to signal one of us is poor.

There’s no mystique to the chic, to the clique at their peak, in the divine in-crowd at large, and condescending, by and large. So intent upon largesse, they pray for prey while they transgress. I get no kicks to complain - about the ‘ghosts’ in the machine and the works that lack my soul and the privilege of inheriting control. I do it for love!

I only give when the artist shows both hands at once on the material at once and not the followers at all. I only give in where use transcends, not transports or transacts, transfers or translates. I only give way on the wilderness, where nothing offends. I only give up on the wastage and the will to impress. I give more to the person, when we’re eye to eye and making more than amends. And I’m always in the market for angels and friends.

I eat my own said...

The difference is one knows they’re tired, retro and lame and the other doesn’t.

One thinks he’s corporate and the other thinks he’s freelance. One shops the other buys, but they’re both thinking short term commodities.

They both think they’re making the scene, but we all know they only want a scene that’s already made. It’s a very safe sex arena really. Know what I mean?

They can’t wait to do things for you, to you, but from a safe distance, in the company of others. Lower the lights, turn up the sound, cuz they just know you can do a whole lot more for them, that way.

Yessir I can boogie.

Oh! Oh! Electricity! Mirrors! Plumbing and out-saucing! Please don’t hurt me! Here everyone - put on these goggles! Yeah see doesn’t that make a difference? – Feel that? That changes everything, doesn’t it? It’s so clean and F – U – N. Now I can’t stop laughing.

Yeah I guess that’s ‘spiritual’, sharing and shit. Phew. ‘Transcendental’- all the way up to the control room. No, you can’t go in there without a pass.

Everybody say “Hoah!” “Doh-see-doh” “Away we go!”

Jacques de Beaufort said...

malarky and eat my own
to damn cool, probably don't even own a phone
look out DJ Derrida, your pants are all bundled and you got big crumbs of baguette in your big white hair
that OE and JP would love to wear
without a waterfall or a net
floating ceramics as I ram this
rhyme
plastic crocs to walk as I'm on this corporate tear
a new hole in that wall
fat like santa I puff on mad ganja
and cash checks all day as my slaves slave away
watch as Art Department chairs lick my ass
wearing designers shoes actually made at Bass
melamine, waterfalls, blue chip free for all
rich white trustees
I sting your hand that feeds like a bumble bee
high in cholesteral I gotta watchout for the
art attack heart attack
because eventually people going to realize my art is wack
stop paying money for my crack plastic lamp crap
I can't live on free ass lickin
I prefer fried chicken that's finger licking
time to buy the store before there aint no more because the apocolypse is gonna make sure
that I'm
not gonna be nuthin
no
more

Robert said...

I will certainly miss the excellent regular posts here but look forward to your new site. many thanks.

Balhatain said...

WOW. You have a lot of content here! Stumbled on your blog while visiting Winkleman's blog.

Cheers,

B
@ Myartspace Blog

Art Sleuth said...

hey Cap congrats on your 100th blog. Im back on me old site. thank god for that
take it easy!
Art X

Art Sleuth said...

On it CAP.
Art

Anonymous said...

Odd comparison--Pardo is sooo derivative and boring with his copies of Eames furniture and 50s California interior design, he's not remotely as compelling as OE. With all due respect, is it significant that Pardo "looks to amplify affinities or links between an array of modest, domestic elements"? Isn't that what any interior decorator does?

It's art, yet really minor art....

You have a fantastic resource here, hope you get a wider audience for it. Cheers.

CAP said...

Thanks for the compliment, Anon 02:36.

Re: ‘Is it significant that Pardo "looks to amplify affinities or links between an array of modest, domestic elements"? Isn't that what any interior decorator does?’

Perhaps I ought to have said ‘looks to amplify unusual or overlooked affinities between an array of modest domestic elements’. Interior design certainly harmonises elements. Pardo does not just participate in the process but exemplifies it through more unusual placements and combinations. His work is about interior design in this way, rather than just instantiating it.

Bracketing Pardo and Eliasson is meant to draw attention to differences as well as similarities. As I say, ‘their work is actually two sides of the same coin’. I don’t find Pardo’s retro tastes boring because at his best he also mixes and matches with a lot of contemporary technology (I’m thinking of his wallpaper/murals especially). But he is pretty low camp, no question. Then again Eliasson strikes me as high camp with all his elemental spectacles and Teutonic love of high polish and massed ranks of admirers.

Both are over-rated, but there is a funny side to these things.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:36 here, thanks for the response and amplification. I do see what you're getting at. I'm an artist who used to live in L.A., and saw much work by Pardo, and it has become really tedious to me, while I haven't seen nearly as much of Eliasson's work.

Your "mano a mano" pairings are very instructive and your broad selection of artists shows a real grasp of contemporary art. Fun reading!

Dimo Java-Lee Garcia said...

Cap:
Thanks for the correction. I visit your blog too and I like it.
Dimo.