Description: The River Raft Series 42 color coupler prints mounted on board in artist's frames each: 11 3/4 x 15 3/4 in. (30.5 x 40 cm.) overall: 82 1/2 x 126 in. (209.5 x 320 cm.) Executed in 2000. This work is number six from an edition of six. (42)
Artist or Maker: Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967)
Exhibited: Virginia Beach, Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, All Terrain, February-April 2001.
Houston, De Menil Collection, Olafur Eliasson: Photographs, May-September 2004, pp. 72-72 (illustrated; another from the edition exhibited).
Literature: A. Brooks, Subjective Realities, Works from the Refco Collection of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, 2003, pp. 96-99 (twelve works illustrated in color).
Provenance: Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York
Notes: The four elements-water, air, earth, and fire-occupy the heart of Olafur Eliasson's artistic practice. The Berlin-based artist spends several months each year in his native Iceland, visiting family and friends and photographing the country's natural wonders-rivers, glaciers, waterfalls, islands. "Over the years," Eliasson notes, "so many photographs have amassed that they're gradually beginning to constitute a meta-series, a detailed documentation of the country" (quoted in "Cultural History, Not Natural History: An Interview with Olafur Eliasson," db-art.info magazine, 2006).
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Water, in all its colors, forms, and movements, is the subject of Eliasson's consideration in the forty-two photographs that comprise The River Raft Series. The artist shot these images on a dawn-to-dusk whitewater rafting trip on an Icelandic river, and the suite is remarkable for its up-close documentation. Water takes up most of the field of the image, extending out from the viewer in a vertiginous onrush that makes one feel as if part of the river sojourn.
Although Eliasson's projects are always tied to nature, his environmental sculptures and interventions often seem to defy natural processes as much as they record and chart it. Here, the river seems to have a will of its own. It is turquoise, cerulean, and black in turns; it breaks in whitecaps, pools in patterns that evoke the volcanic rock below its surface, and flows in quiet lulls; it seems menacing in some images, placid in others. Though his approach is fundamentally a documentary one, Eliasson's sweeping depictions of natural phenomena often seem to imbue his subjects with their own spirited temperaments.