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Chromatic Modernism (Yellow, Blue, Red)

Not on view

Chromatic Modernism (Yellow, Blue, Red)

Artist: Josiah McElheny (American, born 1966)

Date: 2008
Medium: Hand-blown glass, color laminated sheet glass, low iron sheet glass, anodized aluminum and electric lights
Overall: 85 1/2 x 73 7/8 x 19 1/4in. (217.2 x 187.6 x 48.9cm)
Credit Line: 75th Anniversary Acquisition. Museum purchase, in part, by exchange with funds from the William and Catherine Palmer Fund and from the estate of Mary Gruskin
Object number: 2009.2.a-j
Label Text
Josiah McElheny creates or re-creates glass forms based on historical examples in a conceptual approach to art–making. He is especially interested in examining the history and politics of displaying objects in the Modern era.

Chromatic Modernism resembles mid-20th-century shelving. The black metal frame and sheet glass are geometric and frame the organically shaped vessels within. To appreciate the work, one must move from side to side in front of the piece. In this way, the palette of colors dramatically changes in a fluid exchange of color and light.

McElheny proposes that this phenomenological display can be symbolic of the regularly shifting state of our perceptions as we move through time, space, and life. That is, McElheny uses this visual interplay to underscore the conceptual underpinning of Chromatic Modernism: the viewer might imagine the possibilities for alternative perspectives on the past. He has stated “you can believe there is this thing called history which is a linear narrative . . . or you could say that there’s a lot of different stories” that could be reassembled in another way.

Josiah McElheny
Artist’s statement
The forms are chosen based on three general criteria:

One is technical and my ability to make the form and have it possess a continuous, even, tonal aspect.

Second is my ongoing interest in specific European traditions in which industry adapted its processes to the ideologies of modernism in a localized and culturally specific way. Namely, Scandinavia, Italy, Bohemia, and Germany/Austria. These forms developed over a hundred years and are still, for the most part, the basis for much contemporary aesthetic practice.

Lastly, that they form a dynamic composition that is intuitively familiar in its general outline to most observant viewers, that is, it has a relationship to public and domestic displays of objects that people unconsciously remember.

© Josiah McElheny