McElheny effectively fuses art and design, fact and fiction, and depth and the devices of illusionism. His work juxtaposes the old-world craftsmanship of traditional glassblowing with provocative references to historical models and design objects. Modernity, Mirrored and Reflected Infinitely is at once a document of history and an appealing object.
In this work, made of mirrored blown-glass bottles placed on a flat mirrored shelf, McElheny pushes the optical nature of reflection into a new sculptural condition. The faces of the cabinet are two-way mirrors, so viewers look into a brightly lit space of pure reflection, filled with a seemingly infinite number of seductive, gleaming, curvilinear forms. These forms are based on nine decanters designed in the 1950s and 1960s by well-known modern glass designers: Carlo Scarpa, his son Tobia Scarpa, Fulvio Bianconi, Paolo Venini, and others. The work carefully replicates these objects and radically transforms them, obliquely alluding to a narrative of design history without literally invoking a particular story. McElheny provides a meditation on modern design that is perfectly self-contained and self-referential; tightly encapsulated in its hermeticism, it offers the viewer continuous sensory delectation.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 2226.