Josiah McElheny

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Josiah McElheny
Born 1966 (1966)
United States
Nationality American
Education Rhode Island School of Design
Known for Sculpture, Assemblage
Awards MacArthur Fellows Program

Josiah McElheny (born in 1966, United States) is an artist and sculptor, primarily known for his work with glass blowing and assemblages of glass and mirrored glassed objects (see glass art). He is a 2006 recipient of the MacArthur Fellows Program "genius grant". He currently lives and works in New York City.

He has exhibited his work at national and international venues including the Museum of Modern Art, Orchard, and Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York, Donald Young Gallery in Chicago, Institut im Glaspavillon in Berlin, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, White Cube in London, and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid.

Early life[edit]

McElheny grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts. While attending high school in the early 1980s, he was part of Boston's underground music scene and worked as a sound engineer at Radiobeat Studios. He holds production credits on records by the Proletariat, Sorry, and Death Wish, recorded in 1983 and 1984.

McElheny went on to receive his B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1988. As part of that program, in 1987 he trained under Master Glassblower Ronald Wilkins in London, England, and also studied at Rome, Italy in the Rhode Island School of Design European Honors Program.

After graduating, he was an apprentice to Master Glassblower Jan-Erik Ritzman and Sven-Ake Caarlson (in Transjö, Sweden) from 1989–1991; and an apprentice to Master Glassblower Lino Tagliapietra (various locations: Seattle, Washington, New York, New York, Switzerland) from 1992-1997.


In earlier works McElheny played with notions of "history" and "fiction." Examples of this are works that recreate Renaissance glass objects pictured in Renaissance paintings and modern (but lost) glass objects from documentary photographs (such as works by Adolf Loos). McElheny has mentioned the influence of the writings of Jorge Luis Borges in his work.

Overall his work addresses history, modernism, cosmology, reflection, infinity, purity and utopia, and has clear links to the work of the American abstract artist Donald Judd. His work also sometimes deals with issues of museological displays and one's attempts to derive inferences about historical peoples from their household possessions and objects. He draws from a range of disciplines like architecture, physics, and literature, among others, and he works in a variety of media.[1]

The artist has also expressed interest in glassblowing as part of an oral tradition handed down generation to generation.

One of the artist's ongoing projects has been characterized as an "investigation into the origins of the universe." "An End to Modernity" (2005), a twelve-foot-wide by ten-foot-high chandelier of chrome and transparent glass modeled on the 1960s Lobmeyr design for the chandeliers found in Lincoln Center, and evoking as well the Big Bang theory, was commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University. "The End of the Dark Ages," again inspired by the Metropolitan Opera House chandeliers and informed by logarithmic equations devised by the cosmologist David H. Weinberg was shown in New York City in 2008. Later that year, the series culminated in a massive installation titled "Island Universe" at White Cube in London[2] and in Madrid.[3]

Teaching and professional experience[edit]

Solo exhibitions[edit]

  • 2016 - "The Ornament Museum", Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna
  • 2012 - "Some Pictures of the Infinite," Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
  • 2009 - "Proposal for a Chromatic Modernism," Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
  • 2009 - "A Space for an Island Universe," Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid
  • 2008 - "Island Universe," White Cube, London
  • 2008 - "The End of the Dark Ages," Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
  • 2008 - "The Light Club of Batavia," Donald Young Gallery, Chicago
  • 2008 - "Das Lichtklub von Batavia/The Light Club of Batavia," Institut im Glaspavillon, Berlin
  • 2008 - "The Last Scattering Surface," Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle and Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota
  • 2007 - "The 1st at Moderna: The Alpine Cathedral and the City-Crown," Moderna Museet, Stockholm
  • 2007 - "Projects 84: The Alpine Cathedral and the City-Crown," The Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • 2007 - "Cosmology, Design, and Landscape, Part II," Donald Young Gallery, Chicago
  • 2006 - "Cosmology, Design, and Landscape, Part I," Donald Young Gallery, Chicago
  • 2006 - "Modernity 1929–1965," Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
  • 2005 - "An End to Modernity," Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
  • 2004 - "Total Reflective Abstraction, " Donald Young Gallery, Chicago
  • 2003 - “Antipodes: Josiah McElheny,” White Cube, London
  • 2003 - “Theories About Reflection,” Brent Sikkema Gallery, New York
  • 2002 - Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  • 2001 - Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kansas
  • 2001 -“Metal Party,” Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco
  • 2001 -“Metal Party,” Public Art Fund, New York
  • 2000 - "Christian Dior, Jorges Luis Borges, Adolf Loos," Donald Young Gallery, Chicago and Brent Sikkema, New York
  • 1999 - The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
  • 1999 - The Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle
  • 1997 - "Three Alter Egos," Donald Young Gallery, Seattle
  • 1997 -"Non-Decorative Beautiful Objects," AC Project Room, New York
  • 1996 - Barbara Kraków Gallery, Boston
  • 1995 - Donald Young Gallery, Seattle
  • 1995 - Installation with Ancient Roman Glass, Ancient Mediterranean and Egypt Gallery, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle,
  • 1995 - Stephen Friedman Gallery, London
  • 1994 -"Authentic History," Robert Lehman Gallery, Brooklyn, New York
  • 1993 - "originals, fakes, reproductions," William Traver Gallery, Seattle
  • 1990 - "Jägarens Glasmuseet" (The Hunter's Glass Museum), Arnescruv, Sweden,

Group exhibitions[edit]

  • 2010 - "Josiah McElheny, Blinky Palermo, Heimo Zobernig," Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
  • 2010 - "Redi-Mix, Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts, New York
  • 2009 - "Allan Kaprow YARD," Queens Museum of Art, Queens, New York
  • 2009 - "Universal Code," The Power Plant, Toronto
  • 2009 - "Sense and Sentiment," Augarten Contemporary, Vienna
  • 2009 - "Innovations in the Third Dimension: Sculpture of our Time," Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut
  • 2008 - "Multi-Part Art," Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence
  • 2008 - "Mildred’s Lane," Alexander Gray, New York
  • 2008 - "Spring-Wound," Orchard, New York
  • 2008 - "Beyond Measure: Conversations Across Art and Science," Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, UK
  • 2008 - "Sensory Overload: Light, Motion, Sound, and the Optical in Art Since 1945," Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • 2007 - "Viewfinder," Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle
  • 2007 - "Sparkle Then Fade," Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Washington
  • 2007 - "Cosmologies," James Cohan Gallery, New York
  • 2007 - "Accumulations: More Than the Sum of Their Parts," Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
  • 2007 - "Museo de reproducciones fotograficas," Rutgers University Gallery, Newark
  • 2006 - "The Bong Show (or This is Not a Pipe)," Leslie Tonkonow, New York
  • 2006 - "Transitional Objects: Contemporary Still Life," Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York
  • 2006 - "Dynasty," Gallery MC, New York
  • 2006 - "Super Vision," Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
  • 2006 - "Shiny," Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio
  • 2005 - "Part Object Part Sculpture," Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio
  • 2005 - "Faith," Real Art Ways, Hartford, Connecticut
  • 2005 - "Spectrum," Galerie Lelong, New York
  • 2005 - "Bottle: Contemporary Art and Vernacular Tradition," Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut
  • 2005 - "View Eight: A Few Domestic Objects Interrogate a Few Works of Art," Mary Boone, New York
  • 2005 - "Extreme Abstraction," Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
  • 2004 - "The Cobweb," Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  • 2004 - "Printemps de septembre á Toulouse: In Extremis," Les Abbatoirs, Toulouse, France
  • 2004 - "Glass," Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, Rhode Island
  • 2004 - "Signs of Being," The Foundation To-Life, Inc., Mount Kisco, New York
  • 2003 - "Books and Manuscripts," Volume Gallery, New York
  • 2003 - "Warped Space," CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco,
  • 2002 - “Family”, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut
  • 2002 - “Keep in touch,” Brent Sikkema, New York
  • 2002 - “View Six: Surface to Surface,” Mary Boone Gallery, New York
  • 2001 - "Musings: Contemporary Tradition," Gallery 312, Chicago
  • 2001 - 4th International Biennial “Beau Monde: Toward a Redeemed Cosmopolitanism”, SITE Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • 2001 - “House Guests: Contemporary Artists in The Grange,” Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
  • 2001 - Donald Young Gallery, Chicago
  • 2001 - “Body Space,” The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 2000 - Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
  • 2000 - "Three Summer Shows: Francis Cape, Josiah McElheny, and Yinka Shonibare," Real Art Ways, Hartford, Connecticut
  • 1999 - "Patentia," Nordic Institute of Contemporary Art, Stockholm
  • 1998 - "At Home in the Museum," The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
  • 1998 - "Usefool," Postmasters Gallery, New York
  • 1998 - "Personal Touch," Art in General, New York
  • 1998 - "Inglenook," Feigen Contemporary, New York (travelled to Illinois State University Galleries, Normal, Illinois)
  • 1998 - "Interlacings," Whitney Museum of American Art at Champion, Stamford, Connecticut
  • 1998 - "Young Americans: Part II," Saatchi Gallery, London
  • 1997 - "Paul Bloodgood, Paula Hayes, Josiah McElheny, Sandra Vallejos," AC Project Room, New York
  • 1997 - "Living Room," Barbara Westerman Gallery, Newport, Rhode Island
  • 1996 - "A Labor of Love," The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York
  • 1996 - "What’s Love Got to Do With It?" Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago
  • 1996 - "The Last Supper," Donald Young Gallery, Seattle
  • 1996 - "Drawings from the MAB Library," AC Project Room, New York
  • 1995 - "VER-RÜCKT," Kulturstiftung Schloss Agathenburg, Agathenburg, Germany (traveled to: Art Museum of Arolsen, Arolsen, Germany)
  • 1995 - "For Victoria," Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York (with Dan Peterman)
  • 1995 - "For Victoria," Grazer Kunstverein (de), Graz, Austria (with Dan Peterman)
  • 1995 - "Holding the Past," Seattle Art Museum, Seattle
  • 1994 - First Fundraising Exhibition, American Fine Arts Company, New York
  • 1994 - "Wunderkammer," Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
  • 1994 - "Are You Experienced?" Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York

Awards and fellowships[edit]


  • Josiah McElheny: A Prism (Skira Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 2010) ISBN 978-0-8478-3415-0
  • The Light Club: On Paul Scheerbart's 'The Light Club of Batavia' (University of Chicago Press, 2010) ISBN 978-0-226-51457-4


  1. ^ Oldknow, Tina (2014). collecting contemporary glass. Corning New York: Corning museum of glass. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-87290-201-5. 
  2. ^ "The Big Picture" by Alex Browne, The New York Times, September 26, 2008. Retrieved 4 August 2009.
  3. ^ "Josiah McElheny and David Weinberg: From the Big Bang to Island Universe" Wexler Center press release on a joint conversation May 6, 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2009.