Josiah McElheny, a sculptor, filmmaker and writer living and working in Brooklyn, New York, is recognized for his beautiful and rigorously crafted conceptual works that ignore hierarchies between craft and fine art. His training includes a B.F.A. in 1988 from the Rhode Island School of Design and apprenticeships with master glassblowers Ronald Wilkins, Jan-Erik Ritzman, Sven-Ake Caarlson, and Lino Tagliapietra.
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McElheny received a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award in 1995, had work chosen for the 2000 Whitney Biennial and was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship “genius grant” in 2006. Recent solo exhibitions include: Some Pictures of the Infinite at The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, up through October 14; Other: Josiah McElheny’s Island Universe, Harvard Arts Museum, Harvard Film Archive last year; Tate Modern Live: Push and Pull, a two-day performance event, with Andrea Geyer at Tate Modern, London in spring 2011.
He was also chosen to create a site-specific work for the Bloomberg Commission at White Chapel in London that after a year, recently closed and Public Television’s Art 21 series, Art in the Twenty First Century featured McElheny in their episode on Memory in 2005.
Three Historical Mirrors
“In the changing material nature of the mirror as object, we might glimpse a parallel development of the idea of the self in Western culture—and by extension, in Western art.” Josiah McElheny, Cabinet, Issue 14, Summer 2004
For an Art 21 interview in 2005, Josiah McElheny explains that all of his work is derived from some original source. A studious artist who, through his art practice, explores topics of interest such as history, art history, fashion, notions of perception, models of time and cosmology is described in a press release for Some Pictures of the Infinite at the ICA, Boston, as using his findings to “encode his work with information, converting beautiful objects into repositories of meaning.”
In a 2004 essay, A Short History of the Glass Mirror, for Cabinet magazine, McElheny writes about each mirror represented in Three Historical Mirrors, 1998 which is installed in where is the power so as to visually connect the front and back spaces of the gallery. The piece consists of four parts: a wall label identifying each of its three mirrors in chronological order; an early obsidian mirror that offers a “dark and haunting vision of the self;” a 14th-century convex mirror as seen in Jan Van Eyck’s painting, Wedding Portrait; and a silver-backed, rectangular mirror that is embellished with a flower pattern.
Like other work in where is the power, Three Historical Mirrors addresses memory. The artist marks time and conceptually addresses reflection with these modestly scaled, but powerful, replicas that represent the functional and formal development of their source. Offering viewers mysterious, distorted and interrupted reflections of themselves and their environment, McElheny questions how much of our own evolution is owed to the progress represented in this piece – from Narcissus discovery of his own image to the self-reflection that defines modern-man.