Palazzo Strozzi’s ‘Chiaroscuro’ Show by Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson, Under the Weather (Palazzo Strozzi courtyard) ©photo Ela Bialkowska OKNO studio

Until January 22, 2023:  IN YOUR TIME (NEL TUO TEMPO) by OLAFUR ELIASSON.  Palazzo Strozzi.  Open 10 am – 8 pm daily, Thursday until 11 pm.  Open on November 1. Admission: €15, €5 for ages 6 to 18.

The Palazzo Strozzi presents a unique showcase dedicated to Olafur Eliasson, whose multifaceted production focuses on the visitor in a reflection on the idea of a shared and relational experience of reality.

Eliasson, an Icelandic-Danish artist, works with sculpture, painting, photography, video, installations and digital media. His art is guided by his interest in perception, movement, lived experience, his own feelings and those of the community.

Nel Tuo Tempo, or In Your Time, a contemporary art show that plays with light and shadows (the technique of chiaroscuro) as a medium.  Olafur Eliasson uses the Renaissance architecture of the building to manipulate the subtle patterns of the palazzo to heighten the effects of lights and shadows in his exhibits. In other words, this art is site-specific: tied to the building, and the same shadow in any other place or time would not have the same effect.

Windows are a big element in this display. There were several works that featured spotlights on a building next door, or outside in the courtyard, and one piece focused how that light shone through the window to cast a beautiful glass shadow onto giant screens across the room.

The shadows had the natural texture of the glass, magnifying the irregularities in the centuries-old windows. The light also changes with the time of day, as it depends on how much or little light is outside. Even the dust on the windows, as well as any scratches or bubbles only serve to highlight the texture and allow the audience to experience the Palazzo Strozzi in an unexpected way.

The atmosphere of the show is very strong, with such striking lines and images that it is  hard to believe it is achieved only with light. However, light isn’t the only medium. Darkness is also used to create enchanting effects. In one room of the exhibition, a light mist of water sprinkles down from the ceiling in a totally dark room, and the water is lit only by a dim light. The effect of this, however, is quite striking. The mist casts a rainbow glow into the air like a shimmering mirage in the dark.  It is beautiful.

Another room held a giant half-circle that runs diagonally along through the room protruding from a mirror in the ceiling. It is placed at just the right angle so that the effect is that of a full circle, completed by the mirror. Seeing yourself in the same space as the art, reflected by the mirror in the ceiling, gives the illusion of a bridge between two worlds. The title of that piece was How Do We Live Together?, and the message comes across with stunning clarity.

There are also rooms that play on color. These pieces of art used geometry and colored glass to create beautiful rainbow kaleidoscopes that reflect the surroundings and even the movements of the other visitors.

Firefly, double polyhedron sphere experiment, photo by Jens Ziehe

Then there is the Room for One Colour, which is just a big room lit up with soft golden lights. It casts the yellow glow everywhere, and the mono frequency of the lights reduces the audience’s color perception to just that shade. The longer the  visitor stays in the room, the more you begin to see the distinct shades. The message of the room was to show that perception is always acquired. With this, the artists hope to be able to get the audience to see themselves in a different light. Upon leaving the room, you will have a brief flush of blue afterimage, which again gets stronger the longer you stay in the room.

Nel Tuo Tempo displays a wide variety of art that uses many new, fascinating techniques. Olafur Eliasson says, “As visitors, you too have traveled— each mind-body different from the others. On individual journeys— with diverse backgrounds and experiences— we meet up here and now part of the exhibition.” Eliasson’s art conveys his meaning with clarity and force, and this show is not something to be missed for art lovers everywhere. (isabella azzaro)