Josiah McElheny

A Space for an Island Universe

28 january, 2009 - 29 march, 2009 /
Sabatini Building, Floor 4 and Palacio de Cristal, Parque del Retiro, Madrid

The Palacio de Cristal at the Parque del Retiro hosts the sculpture Island Universe (2008) consisting of five chromed aluminium and blown glass elements. For its creation the artist Josiah McElheny (Boston, USA, 1966) has based himself on current theories about the origin of the universe, what cosmologists call the multiverse, multiple possible universes in constant expansion, replacing previous ideas about the Big-Bang.

McElheny, true to his desire to be a lifelong learner, constantly explores the relationship between art and other fields, which orientates him towards the European masters of glassmakers and collaboration with various scientists to project his work. Recently, his continued concern about the end of modernity has taken him to cosmology. These sculptures (the first of this type was made in collaboration with astronomer David H. Weinberg), open debates on cosmological speculations that posit a theory of a multiverse, where there is no hierarchy.

At the same time, a film is projected on the fourth floor of the Sabatini Building of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía produced by the artist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York with a soundtrack by Paul Schütze, in which the artist shows the luminaries that have served as a conceptual model for his work and which were manufactured in 1965 in Vienna, according to a design inspired by the first representations of the Big Bang theory, the evidence of which had been released that year.

The Palacio de Cristal is an ideal space for McElheny's work, with which he shares both aesthetic and symbolic connotations. Island Universe (2008) is a sculpture that consists of five sculptural elements suspended from the ceiling at different heights to represent the five "island universes". In all of them the metal spokes of different lengths are based on time measurements, the clusters of disks and spheres represent the clustering of galaxies, while the lights represent quasars, the brightest objects known in the universe. McElheny has taken the concept of Immanuel Kant's "Island Universe" archipelago, where multiple islands coexist each of which represents a universe where neither depends upon the other, as a social model where there are various different individuals without hierarchies. This work reconciles a beautiful and impressive materiality with a wealth of cultural, historical and formal associations, with which the artist questions the legacy of modernity.

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Lynne Cooke