Shining Star

Cool pics from Iceland
Menil Collection

Olafur Eliasson has got a little something in common with Prometheus, the Greek god who stole fire for mankind. He brought the sun to England as part of an epic installation at the Tate Modern in London. When the work, called The Weather Project, lured record crowds to the museum, the Icelandic/Danish art star (there aren't a whole lot of those floating around out there) reaffirmed his place as an art-world sensation.

To create the work, the artist mirrored the ceiling and created a giant glowing sun with delicate clouds of mist. The sun-starved Brits were wowed by the environment, and visitors lay on the gallery floor to stare up at the manufactured sky. Eliasson, uninterested in sleight of hand, allowed viewers to see the mechanisms that created the sun (an 18,000-watt bank of yellow sodium streetlight bulbs) and the mist (fog machines).

Eliasson's art is often called "meditative" and "elegant." His installations appeal to the senses -- ephemeral elements such as air, fog and light are harnessed for his works. Of course, sunshine, next to more pollution, is about the last thing Houston needs, so Eliasson's exhibition at the Menil Collection will present an overview of the artist's lesser-known photographic artworks. The Menil is the only U.S. venue that gets the honor of hosting "Olafur Eliasson: Photographs." So, no, we aren't getting the big sun thing.

Eliasson now lives in Berlin but spends a couple of months each year back in good ol' Iceland. When he visits his geologically dramatic homeland, he takes photographs that inventory the results of natural phenomena such as earthquakes and rivers. He also documents roads and other manmade additions to the natural world. Eliasson's photographs have an interesting relationship to his installations. They explore environments in the same way his other artworks create environments to be explored.

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