Josiah McElheny and Lynne Cooke

Saturday, November 16, 2013
1pm, Josiah McElheny Artist Lecture
2:00-4:00pm, Interiors: Josiah McElheny and Lynne Cooke

Josiah McElheny and Lynne Cooke have long had conversations on subjects of cultural history, exhibition display and aesthetics. Within the space of the exhibition, “If you lived here, you’d be home by now” at the Bard Hessel Museum of Art, Cooke and McElheny each brought a quote as a starting point to their conversation, “Dialogue.” Within the context of the lumber room and its history as the domestic space of art collectors—Josiah McElheny’s Artist Project Season provides a unique situation for an expanded conversation on “Interiors.”

COOKE: In 1930, when she [Hilla Rebay] and Solomon Guggenheim were beginning to plan the public presentation of his collection of abstract art, Rebay argued, “Anyone who hopes to fully comprehend a picture has to live with it… The exhibition room needs to be solemn yet comfortable enough that one is forced to linger.” Rebay wanted a situation that promoted great concentration and so furnished the galleries of the interim presentations of Guggenheim’s collection in New York City with curtains and carpet, played recorded music by Bach and Beethoven, and provided seating in the guise of low ottomans; ottomans low enough to make one aware of the tug between body and spirit, between gravity and weightlessness.

MCELHENY: In an interview in 1974, William Rubin remarked, “To the extent that it remains within the tradition of modern easel painting, [art] still finds the museum a hospitable environment, although the ideal place—even for a big Pollock—is in a private home. I think that’s what most modern painting, given its character, really wants. To me, museums are essentially compromises. They are neither like a really public place nor are they private—like an apartment. Their weakness is that they are necessarily homogenized—emptied of all connotations other than art, and that finally is an artificial situation.” Rubin concluded, “Museums never were, and I think never will be, the absolutely right environment for works of art. I don’t think works of art are at their most interesting when separated from the whole fabric of life.”

Josiah McElheny is an artist based in New York City. A sculptor, performance artist, writer and filmmaker, McElheny’s work draws on his interests and research into the history of glass, modernism, the evolution of museological display, Enlightenment philosophy and early twentieth-century theories of utopia and the “Big Bang.” In 2012 and 2013, his work was the subject of two major survey exhibitions at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston and at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus. He has written for Artforum and Cabinet, and is a contributing editor to BOMB. Since 2001 he has been a senior critic in sculpture at the Yale School of Art and is the 2013 Teiger Mentor in the Arts at Cornell University. In 2006 Josiah McElheny was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.

Lynne Cooke is Andrew W. Mellon Professor at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. She served as chief curator and deputy director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid from 2008 to 2012 and as curator at Dia Art Foundation from 1991 to 2008. In 1991, Cooke co-curated the Carnegie International, and she has helmed numerous major shows since, including the 10th Biennale of Sydney (1996), "Island Universe" with Josiah McElheny at the Reina Sofia (2009) and the traveling exhibition "Rosemarie Trockel: Cosmos" (2012). She has written for Artforum as well as for numerous exhibition catalogues. Cooke was on the faculty at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College from 1996 to 2008.
Josiah McElheny, The Club for Modern Fashion, 2013 © Josiah McElheny, courtesy the artist and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
Josiah McElheny, The Club for Modern Fashion, 2013 © Josiah McElheny, courtesy the artist and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York