The Center Is Everywhere
The Center Is Everywhere (detail)
The Center Is Everywhere, 2012
Brass, cut lead crystal, electric lighting, hand-bound book
Height: 76 in.
Diameter: 16 in.
Edition of 12 plus 3 artist's proofs
Excerpt from Taylor Walsh, "STUDY FOR THE CENTER IS EVERYWHERE":
The Center Is Everywhere recalls the decorative fixtures of Josef Hoffmann, whose Vienna Secession designs combine the elegance and functionality of fin-de-siècle tastes. McElheny’s brass rods tipped with lights cite Hoffmann’s attenuated forms and distended verticality, and his work’s material richness celebrates Hoffmann’s elevation of the artisanal, eroding boundaries between art and craft. The concept for The Center Is Everywhere was proposed by the cosmologist David Weinberg, and may mark the culmination of his partnership with McElheny. Through his involvement with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Weinberg took part in efforts to chart the entirety of the cosmos, one dimesized portion at a time. With a telescope lens trained on a sliver of sky, a metal plate is perforated with holes corresponding to each visible light, the size and shape of the puncture dictated by the nature and brightness of the astral body. Treating these metal discs as rarefied found objects, Weinberg suggested them as the basis for a sculpture, and McElheny acceded, arbitrarily choosing a plate to copy and elaborate. The random sampling of his selection method echoes his gloss on the implications of Big Bang theory: that any celestial location “is just as likely to be as interesting or as boring as any other.” An elongated map of a specific patch of sky, The Center Is Everywhere bursts with information. Though its conceptual underpinnings may elude the casual spectator, each of the work’s elements denotes a stellar corollary: the isolated crystals near the top act as single stars, globular crystal clusters signify galaxies, and the longest rods capped with light bulbs represent distant quasars.
Captivating in its lustrous sheen, the sculpture obscures its astronomical origins while stoking the guileless, childlike attraction toward all that flickers and shines. McElheny’s series of cosmological sculptures are inspired by science, but they are not bound by attempts to illustrate it. Though meticulously accurate in the data they encode, his works take imaginative forms that exceed the constraints of their source material, and are as beholden to aesthetic concerns as they are to empirical truths. Throughout his oeuvre, the artistic and the scientific converge asymptotically, closing in on one another yet stopping short of seamless fusion. As the minimalist Carl Andre said of the crucial distinctions between representation and reality: “The ideal of science is to create at least theoretical models of things we hope have some correspondence with what exists; whereas with art, you try as a human being to create something that wouldn’t exist unless you made it.”