Spotlight: Josiah McElheny’s Sculptural Assemblages Reflect Imagined Futures

James Cohan gallery in New York presents McElheny's newest body of work in solo show.

Josiah McElheny, detail of From the Library of Future Geometries I (2023). Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle. © Josiah McElheny. Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York.

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What You Need to Know: On view through December 22, 2023, New York-based James Cohan gallery is presenting the solo exhibition “Josiah McElheny: Geometries for an Imagined Future.” Marking the artist’s third solo show with the gallery, the exhibition is comprised of new work that sees Mcelheny—widely known for his glassmaking techniques—interrogate elements of geometry and explore alternate and expanded uses for shape and form. The four bodies of work featured each focuses on complex and irregular geometries, with individual works set within new and innovative displays. Dimension becomes a question of perspective as McElheny engages with elements of light and reflection, including the prismatic and refractive, and of the potential of glass, which ranges from translucent to opaque.

About the Artist: Currently based in New York City, American artist Josiah McElheny (b. 1966) first became familiar with the art of glassmaking as an undergraduate student at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he received his B.F.A. in 1988. There, he studied under master glassblower Ronald Wilkins, and following graduation went on to apprentice with master glassblowers Jan-Erik Ritzman, Sven-Ake Caarlson, and Lino Tagliapietra. McElheny’s early professional work explored glass objects of history, both extant and lost, and evolved to engage with glassblowing as a continuous and ongoing tradition, with many works employing the infinity mirror to evoke endless space, both physical and historical. Over the course of his career, he has been the subject of dozens of international solo exhibitions and been the recipient of several prestigious awards and fellowships, including the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Award in 1995 and MacArthur Fellowship in 2006. His work is included in numerous public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

Why We Like It: McElheny’s mastery of glass is perhaps no more apparent than in the present exhibition, wherein he expands his own visual lexicon to explore the boundaries and potentials not only of the medium itself but its perception by viewers. Though followers of his work will immediately recognize his signature use of the infinity mirror in works such as Prismatic Refractive Geometry I (2023), plays on the arrangement, like in From the Library of Future Geometries I (2023), featuring geometric typologies in glass offer new lines of inquiry into perception. Furthering this inquiry are works like Projection into Another Future (Sphenomegacorona) (2023). The sphenomegacorona is a term from geometry referring to a specific type of complex shape, here a convex polyhedra comprised of regular polygon faces. In McElheny’s work, the composition at its face could be confused with a flat work like a painting, but depending on vantage the convexity of the form is discovered, evoking traditions of counter-relief sculpture.

See inside the exhibition and featured works below.

Installation view of “Josiah McElheny: Geometries for an Imagine Future” (2023). Photo: Phoebe d’Heurle. Courtesy of James Cohan, New York.

Installation view of “Josiah McElheny: Geometries for an Imagine Future” (2023). Photo: Phoebe d’Heurle. Courtesy of James Cohan, New York.

Josiah McElheny, From the Library of Future Geometries I (2023). Photo: Phoebe d’Heurle. © Josiah McElheny. Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York.

Josiah McElheny, Prismatic Refractive Geometry I (2023). Photo: Phoebe d’Heurle. © Josiah McElheny. Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York.

Josiah McElheny, Projection into Another Future (Sphenomegacorona) (2023). Photo: Phoebe d’Heurle. © Josiah McElheny. Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York.

Josiah McElheny: Geometries for an Imagined Future” is on view at James Cohan through December 22, 2023.


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