Adolf Loos, provocative architect from the early 20th century, basically declared that ornament is a crime and that moving ornament from the world is pure. Ornament in architecture but also on people such as tattoos. To some extend, it is a very colonialist statement … He expressed that most primitive societies use ornaments and that the most advanced ones rarely use them, basically form follows function.
I discovered the work on Josiah McElheny on art21 and I was immediately impressed by his work: through the quality of the work that is self explanatory and also his excellent presentation of his work.
In the documentary series, Art:21—Art in the Twenty-First Century, Josiah McElheny explains how his white glass sculptures and installations are inspired by Adolf Loos’ manifesto, Ornament and Crime. By this idea that primitive people are the ones who decorate and the natural course of progress in men is to remove this decorative impulse from our psyche. He explained that it is about making the world white in the sense of a world without ornamentation, without individuation, without grayness and that almost immediately it falls apart and becomes something really horrible, especially when it becomes imposed upon the world.
“Adolf Loos’ Ornament and Crime“, 2002
Blown glass, wood, glass, and electric lighting, case dimensions: 49 x 60 x 10 1/2 inches. Collection of the Detroit Institute of the Arts. Photo by Tom Van Eynde . Courtesy Donald Young Gallery, Chicago. With Art21 Copyright Notice.
I recently saw Josiah McElheny’s Mirrored and Reflected Infinitely piece exhibited at the ICA in Boston.
Modernity circa 1952, Mirrored and Reflected Infinitely, detail. 2004
Mirrored blown glass, chrome metal, glass, mirror, electric lighting, 30 1/2 x 56 1/2 x 18 1/2 inches
Collection Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo by Tom Van Eynde. Courtesy Donald Young Gallery, Chicago.