Hourglass figure: Daniel Arsham brings calm and colour to Atlanta

Hourglass figure: Daniel Arsham brings calm and colour to Atlanta

Following in quick succession of his first colour-drenched foray at Galerie Perrotin in New York last autumn, Daniel Arsham has transformed the High Museum of Art in Atlanta with three site-specific installations. The exhibition, entitled ‘Daniel Arsham: Hourglass’ continues the artist’s commentary on how we view history through the exploration of physical artefacts. In the case of contemporary times, these artefacts take the form of sporting memorabilia, boom boxes, keyboards and others such.

At the High Museum, Arsham combines audio, sculpture, architecture and performance in the creation of his trio of interrelated environments. In the lobby, performers routinely turn a display of oversized hourglasses to reveal everyday objects, which Arsham has cast in precious and semi precious stones. Finely crushed crystals serve as sand that run through each vessel to reveal and conceal the sculptures within. In the background, audio of a child’s voice describing the objects being unearthed is piped through the hall.

Upstairs, Arsham has created an intricate Japanese Zen garden, rendered in monochromatic blue and completed by a pagoda, petrified trees, tatami mats and delicately raked sand. Dyed rice paper and wooden joinery adorn the walls to complete the sense of timelessness in the room. This tone is continued by a performer, donning traditional robes, raking prescribed patterns into the sand, while a voice overhead describes the environment.

In contrast, the gallery adjacent to the Japanese garden is a cavernous setting festooned with sculptures of contemporary sports equipment, such as footballs, basketballs and baseballs, all cast in purple amethyst – a work reminiscent of the installation at Galerie Perrotin in New York. 

These vibrant bursts of colour can be attributed to Arsham’s use of special lenses to correct his colour blindness – one of the reasons why his earlier work was largely confined to a palette of grey tones.

‘Life is definitely more nuanced, but I’m not sure it’s more interesting. I feel like I’m inside a game – an overly saturated world,’ says Arsham. ‘But now I’ve arrived at a point where I’m using colour as another tool in my work. This is a unique project for me in that there is a ton of color, so I think it’s going to be really interesting to see audiences react.’

‘Daniel Arsham: Hourglass’ coincides with two upcoming collaborations between Arsham and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO). As the Woodruff Arts Center’s 2016–17 Phil Kent Creative Fellow, Arsham will partner with the ASO to design stage environments for Christopher Theofanidis’ commission Creation/Creator and Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera Orfeo et Euridice. The former will be staged in Atlanta later this month, while Orfeo et Euridice will take place in May.

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