Josiah McElheny: Some Pictures of the Infinite
June 22 - September 23, 2012
Josiah McElheny uses the ancient and labor intensive medium of glass to create objects of exceptional beauty and formal sophistication. An artist of diverse interests, McElheny draws on art history, politics, and cosmology to encode his glassworks with information, turning these exquisite objects into repositories of meaning. A mid-career survey of the artist’s work, Josiah McElheny: Some Pictures of Infinity traces the artist’s investigations into the representation of time and space, and in particular, the concept of infinity. Infinity is a spatial conundrum that quickly turns into a philosophical problem: how does one represent the unrepresentable? What images have humans used over time to connote the mathematical realities of the boundlessness of space and time? And how might those images and ideas reflect psychological states or perceptions of history?
McElheny explores this constellation of ideas via his re-creation of the earliest extant glass fragments in an investigation of archeological time, the use of mise en abmye as a means of visualizing infinity, and through recent works that aestheticize the Big Bang and recall mid-century design objects. A highlight of the exhibition is Island Universe (2008), an installation of five, large-scale, chrome and glass sculptures that look to have exploded mid-air. Scientifically accurate models of Big Bang theory, the sculptures in Island Universe represent the apotheosis of McElheny's effort to picture infinity and give an abstract concept materiality and visual form. The questions of infinity, utopia, and modernism that McElheny examines through this and his other works are not the kind one typically associates with craft production, and yet it is through the history of glass that McElheny has traced this historical line of inquiry.
Organized by ICA Chief Curator Helen Molesworth, Josiah McElheny: Some Pictures of Infinity features approximately 14 works, including sculpture, installation, film, photography and performance.