This sculpture, titled “Island Universe”, is by the contemporary glass artist Josiah McElheny, from the survey that launched Friday at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston – and that I featured in a Daily Beast Web gallery. “Island”, as I’ve since realized, has an eerie resemblance to the spacey, space-age works that sculptor Richard Lippold made during the Cold War. Once well known as at least semi-serious art, Lippold’s works now come across as period decor, where they survive at the Air and Space Museum in Washington and the Four Seasons restaurant and Lincoln Center in New York. If McElheny didn’t have Lippold in mind, he was clearly thinking about Sputnik-inspired decorative arts of the same period. But rather than indulge in ironic nostalgia, McElheny gives us a sober update on space-race design: Unlike the period pieces, the shapes and sizes of his work translate actual cosmological findings.
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