CINCINNATI -- Brace yourself for the moment you step off the elevator on the fourth floor of the Contemporary Arts Center and into the museum's latest exhibit, Ugo Rondinone's "let's start this day again."
The floor is acid yellow. Green, pink and orange coat the walls. Sun filters through the skylight, which has been transformed into a rainbow -- literally ROY G. BIV -- with colored gel films. It's hard to know what color you're actually seeing in any one spot, because each reflects off the others.
If you're used to the stark white walls of the Contemporary Arts Center -- or if you've only seen the sleek exterior and lobby -- it's a shock.
It's also part of the point.
"Ugo creates a holistic experience where the architecture of the space becomes an intricate part of the overall installation," said Raphaela Platow, CAC director and curator for the exhibit. "Our Zaha Hadid-designed building is transformed and highlighted by the artist. Ugo's work invites everybody to carefully perceive the building and his works at the same time."
Rondinone is a Swiss-born, New York-based artist, and "let's start this day again" is his first major survey exhibition in the United States, including work from the last two decades. Platow, who first saw Rondinone's art as a student in Germany, said he is exceptional at creating a "holistic experience" in his exhibits.
"We want to include everyone in this space," said Asa Featherstone, CAC communications coordinator. "We want to make art seem less intimidating."
When you're walking through "let's start this day again," you're standing on color and in color. Light is reflecting on you and off you. You're part of the exhibit.
To achieve that affect, Rondinone directed a total transformation of the fourth and fifth floors of the CAC. Painting the walls and ceilings took 12 straight 12-hour days -- paint alone cost $70,000 -- and then the floors were covered in a sturdy colored vinyl.
Working with 30 schools across Greater Cincinnati and seven libraries in Northern Kentucky, the CAC gathered nearly 5,000 drawings of rainbows from children ages 8 months to 12 years. The children's rainbows paper a 50-foot-long wall of the fifth floor, and some are exhibited in the Unmuseum on the sixth floor.
In advance of the May 5 opening, Rondinone came to the CAC to personally place each of the 40 life-size clown sculptures throughout the fourth floor.
Yes, there are life-size clowns. No, they're not that creepy. (Really.)
Each clown wears a white mask with a red nose and closed eyes, black eyelashes against their cheeks. They appear to be resting, each clothed in garish patterns and colors.
The exhibit also includes floating mandalas, blurred target paintings and painted windows.
On May 6, the CAC is hosting a children's opening of the show to honor all the rainbow artists whose work appears in it. A variety of other programs, including One Night One Craft and Thursday Art Play, will be offered before the exhibit closes in August.
Contemporary Arts Center
44 E. 6th St., Downtown
Hours: Saturday-Monday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Tuesday closed; Wednesday-Friday ,10 a.m.-9 p.m.