NEW YORK.- As part of the ongoing Projects series, The Museum of Modern Art presents Projects 84: Josiah McElheny. McElheny (American, b. 1966) has created a room-sized sculptural model made of crystalline glass, colored electric lights, metal, Plexiglas, and painted wood. His installation, The Alpine Cathedral and the City-Crown (2007), is a materialization of and meditation on the writings and sketches of two glass architecture visionaries: Paul Scheerbart, a Berlin-based novelist and utopian fabulist, and Bruno Taut, the leader of a circle of revolutionary architects that emerged in Germany after World War I. On view through April 9, 2007, in a gallery adjacent to the Contemporary Galleries on the second floor, Projects 84 is organized by Joshua Siegel, Assistant Curator, Department of Film.
Scheerbart and Taut were proponents of the idea that glass possessed spiritual qualities that would transform and reform humanity. They envisioned a brave new world of illuminated colored-glass architecture rising out of the ashes of war-ravaged Europe. McElheny offers a contemporary perspective on Scheerbart and Taut's aspirations and ideals, and he questions what it means to be visionary. He evokes their sublime glass utopia in his model-scale landscape of two abstract crystalline structures, the Alpine Cathedral and the City-Crown.
McElheny's two prismatic glass modules are displayed on a contoured wooden basethe Alpine Cathedral on mountain topography and the City-Crown on an octagonal gridand are lit from above and below by kaleidoscopic lights. By fabricating a series of glass planes whose crystalline surfaces constantly shift, shimmer, and dissolve depending on the viewer's position and on the changing pattern of colored light, McElheny makes a unified view impossible and encourages imagination and irresolution to come into play.
Mr. Siegel said, "McElheny's sculptural model occupies the terrain between art and architecture, the fanciful and the useful, the visionary and the real. It points to a past vision of a future paradiseScheerbart and Taut's utopia. But it also calls attention to human imperfections, through its worn-down glass surfaces, and human follies, through its self-conscious theatrical effects, that make this vision of utopia so difficult to realize."
McElheny, who lives and works in New York, graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1989. He has been shown in Biennials at Site Santa Fe (2001) and the Whitney Museum of Art (2000). Solo gallery and museum exhibitions have included exhibitions at the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago, Spain (2002); the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (1999); and Henry Art Gallery (1999). His sculpture Modernity, Mirrored and Reflected Infinitely (2003) is in MoMA's collection and was on view in the Contemporary Galleries reopening installation in 2004. In 2006, he was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship.
About the Curator: Joshua Siegel has been Assistant Curator in the Department of Film since 1999. He previously served as Curatorial Assistant (19931999) in the department. Mr. Siegel has organized or coorganized more than eighty exhibitions for MoMA including Tomorrowland: CalArts in Moving Pictures (2006), which was on view at the Centre George Pompidou in Paris from February 16 March 2; Killer Films (2005); and The Lodz Film School of Poland: 50 Years . His monographic exhibitions include Walter Mirisch (2006); Gregory La Cava, Ross McElwee, and Christopher Guest (2005); Ken Jacobs (2004); Jean Painlevé (2000); Robert Bresson and Errol Morris (1999). Mr. Siegel has also organized a range of animation exhibitions on the work of Winsor McCay (2005), Oskar Fischinger, Mary Blair, and Tissa David (all 2003), as well as contemporary French animation (2005) and a major survey of Polish animation (2003). Since 2000, he has co-organized two annual exhibitions To Save and Project: The MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation, and Mediascope, a program of contemporary experimental filmmaking and media art. Mr. Siegel also co-organized Open Ends as part of MoMA2000 , and he co-edited the accompanying catalogue, Modern Contemporary: Art Since 1980 at MoMA.