’Interactions of the Abstract Body’ by Josiah McElheny, London

’Interactions of the Abstract Body’ by Josiah McElheny, London

It’s hard not to catch your reflection at the current exhibition on show at the White Cube Gallery in Mason’s Yard. Dancers from London’s Trinity Laban’s dance school pace around the space wearing mirrored shapes - ovals, triangles, circles and squares. These eight ’animated sculptures’ are the work of American artist Josiah McElheny and bring to life his supremely abstracted interpretations of the human body.

McElheny has been exploring the body for more than 20 years, examining how fashion and modernism have intersected and influenced it. For this show, entitled Interactions of the Abstract Body, he also created a series glass wall-mounted reliefs based on dress designs by the late artists Sonia Delaunay and Varvara Stepanova.  

Upstairs, he turns his skill for abstraction to glass-blown sculptures. After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design in 1988, McElheny apprenticed under master blowers in Sweden, Murano and Bohemia.
Seven elegant vitrines, (based on those designed by Carlo Scarpa for Italy’s Canova Museum), contain striped, hand blown pieces that appear to change shape as you move around them. ’The Altered Body’ is a group of sculptures inspired by designs of Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen and Man Ray. ’The Architectural Body’ is a collection after Pierre Cardin.

’I am interested in modernism and those utopian moments that seeped into popular culture,’ says McElheny, who has a studio in Brooklyn. He has visited all the most secretive glass workshops across the world and cites Adolf Loos and his work for Czech glass manufacturer Lobmeyr in the 1930s as a seminal moment in glass art history.

This is the first time live performers have been part of an exhibition at Mason’s Yard. By incorporating the dancers, who have been carefully choreographed, McElheny alludes to the wild parties of the Bauhaus, and reminds us that Modernism had its fun side too.

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