- Contemporary Art at the Gardner
- ExhibitionsCurrent ExhibitionsForthcoming ExhibitionsPast Exhibitions
- Luisa Rabbia: Waterfall
- Carla Fernández: The Barefoot Designer: A Passion for Radical Design and Community
- Sophie Calle: Last Seen
- Hamra Abbas: Wall Hanging I
- Adam Pendleton: Untitled
- Raqs Media Collective: The Great Bare Mat & Constellation
- Stefano Arienti: Wild Carrot
- Luisa Lambri: Portrait
- Magic Moments: The Screen and the Eye–9 Artists 9 Projections
- (TAPESTRY) RADIO ON: New Work by Victoria Morton at the Gardner
- Points of View: 20 Years Artists-in-Residence at the Gardner
- Stefano Arienti: Ailanthus
- Danijel Zezelj: Once
- Taro Shinoda: Lunar Reflections
- Su-Mei Tse: Floating Memories
- Luisa Rabbia: Travels with Isabella, Travel Scrapbooks 1883/2008
- Cliff Evans: Empyrean
- Stefano Arienti: The Asian Shore
- Sculpture and Memory: Works from the Gardner and by Luigi Ontani
- Henrik Håkansson: Cyanopsitta spixii Case Study #001
- Michele Iodice: A Pagan Feast
- Variations On a Theme by Sol Lewitt and Paula Robison
- Danijel Zezelj: Stray Dogs
- Dayanita Singh: Chairs
- Maurizio Cannavacciuolo: TV Dinner
- Elaine Reichek: madamimadam
- Joseph Kosuth: Artist, Curator, Collector
- Nari Ward: Episodes: Bus Park & Forevermore
- Manfred Bischoff
- Ackroyd & Harvey: Presence
- Laura Owens
- Denise Marika: New Works by Denise Marika
- Dorit Cypis: The Body in the Picture
- Artists By 1999
Josiah McElheny was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1966, and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, and apprenticed with master glassblowers Ronald Wilkins, Jan-Erik Ritzman, Sven-Ake Caarlson, and Lino Tagliapietra. McElheny creates finely crafted handmade glass objects that he combines with photographs, text, and museological displays to evoke notions of meaning and memory. Whether recreating miraculous glass objects pictured in Renaissance paintings or modernized versions of non-extant glassware from documentary photographs—or extrapolating stories about the daily lives of ancient peoples through the remnants of their glass household possessions—Josiah McElheny's work takes as its subject the object, idea, and social nexus of glass. Influenced by the writings of Jorge Luis Borges, McElheny's work often takes the form of "historical fiction"—which he offers to the viewer to believe or not. Part of McElheny's fascination with storytelling is that glassmaking is part of an oral tradition, handed down generation to generation, artisan to artisan. Looking at a reflective object becomes a metaphor for the act of reflecting on an idea. Sculptural models of Modernist ideals, these totally reflective environments are both elegant seductions as well as parables of the vices of utopian aspirations. Recipient of a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (1995) and the 15th Rakow Commission from the Corning Museum of Glass, McElheny has had one-person exhibitions at Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, and at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. His work has been exhibited at SITE Santa Fe and the Whitney Biennial (2000).
In an essay titled Now, forever, the Past, Josiah McElheny wrote about the Gardner Museum:
"Soon after I began my stay at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, I felt that the Museum was more modern than it appeared. Discovering the particular arrangement of objects, and learning something of the background behind Isabella Gardner's intentions, it seemed that the Museum expressed contemporary ideas of art in its structure and maintenance… Though this is certainly a gloss on this peaceful, but imposing place, I think that it is compelling to interpret this eclectic museum as having been created with insights and reasoning that relates to our current concerns.
…The Museum embodies the ideas of postmodernism, and echoes the strategies of conceptual artists of our contemporary era and the recent past. The art is not arranged by era, medium or culture, but by visual, symbolic and functional themes. Context is used to influence how the art is seen, and cultures and eras are freely mixed. The function of art, as devotional object, as decoration, as everyday object, as narrative, as symbols of power and hierarchies, and as expression of self is expressed by Isabella's creation. The permanent nature of the collection's arrangement is not unlike conceptual artists creating an installation, with instructions to the maintainer of the artwork. These artworks were arranged to shock moral sensitivities, and identity is shown to be a partly fictional idea, just as artists of our own time have emphasized in their work. Each placement of an object, care, and intention is expressed in how it relates to all the other objects in that room, and the rest of the museum. These connections to the present can be seen both conceptually and visually. Isabella seems to have felt, in a very late twentieth century way, that no object stands alone in its meaning, but is only important in how and why it touches the cultural issues of our lives.
The Museum is complicated in that it easily allows for many meanings to be found by the viewer. That fact may be the most forceful argument that it is fundamentally a humanist vision of a kind of postmodernism (or at the least anti-modern), but certainly not an outmoded cabinet of curiosities."
McElheny's residency ran from September 28 through October 27, 1998, during which he worked in the glassblowing studios at the Massachusetts College of Art refining ideas and objects for works that were subsequently featured in the show The Story of Glass. The show ran from January 22, 1999 to April 25, 1999, and was accompanied by a catalog by Jennifer Gross and Dave Hickey. This catalog was the first publication devoted solely to Josiah McElheny and focused not only on work conceived at and inspired by the Gardner, but also served as a retrospective of his career till that point.
At the Massachusetts College of Art, McElheny also worked in conjunction with faculty member Dan Dailey's class. Before arriving at the Museum, McElheny corresponded with then curator of contemporary art, Jennifer Gross, and the Museum's archives and curatorial departments for a list of all the glass objects in the collection. He was supplied with a detailed catalog of all these items, which he used to inform the work he made for the show and what he decided to include.
McElheny completed his residency in January 1999 by participating in educational activities with students in the Gardner Museum's School Partnership Program.