We all know what makes glass art so great: Amazing shapes and stunning colors and the sheer miracle of what molten sand can do. And Josiah McElheny, a 45-year old Brooklynite, has become today’s most important glass artist by going against that consensus. (The Chihuly Accord, we could call it.) McElheny thinks that the glass that he shapes can have the same ambitions as other major art forms–that it can say important, subtle things about the world around us. Beginning Friday June 22, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston is giving McElheny his first U.S. survey, presenting almost 20 years of his most significant work around the theme of time. As curator Helen Molesworth puts it, McElheny, though once apprenticed to master glass blowers, has since “placed as much (if not more) emphasis on the ideas and intentions that surround and accompany the art work as on the finished object itself.” In his show, those ideas include the history of modern aesthetics, traditions of museum display and the birth of the cosmos in the Big Bang. This web gallery shows how McElheny makes glass speak of such immaterial things.
– Blake Gopnik
(All images courtesy Josiah McElheny and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, Donald Young Gallery, Chicago and White Cube. © Josiah McElheny)