artist / participant

press release

Imagine a surreal light spa beneath the gardens of James Deering's lush winter home, Vizcaya. That's what New York-based artist and MacArthur Fellow Josiah McElheny has done in his evocative new film, The Light Club of Vizcaya: A Women's Picture, created for the Museum's Contemporary Arts Project (CAP). This commission program invites artists to develop site-specific projects inspired by Miami's popular National Historic Landmark. The exhibition will be on view at Vizcaya from November 19, 2012 through March 18, 2013.

McElheny's exhibition references a little-known short story by German writer Paul Scheerbart, The Light Club of Batavia, published in 1912. Architecture, as the means to realize dreams and fantasies, is the main theme of Scheerbart's satirical short story, and Vizcaya's architecture and geographical location almost perfectly echo the setting of Scheerbart's novella.

The characters in Scheerbart's story become obsessed with the construction of an underground light spa built entirely out of Tiffany glass. McElheny substitutes Scheerbart’s main characters with figures from Vizcaya’s history, re-creating a narrative about the promise of modernity and utopia. The film collages footage of historical and archival documents with images of Vizcaya's grounds, interiors and architectural elements today. The narrative unfolds through a series of stills and moving images accompanied by Zoe Leonard's voice-over narration. The script was written by Canadian-born poet Rachel Zolf.

McElheny investigates the overlap between fact and fiction, dominant history, and plausible alternative narratives in his artwork. Best known for his visually compelling glass installations, he draws from a range of disciplines—history, architecture, physics and literature, among others—and works in a variety of media. Trained at the Rhode Island School of Design and glass foundries in Europe, McElheny is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and commissions, including the MacArthur Fellowship and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award.

The Contemporary Arts Project (CAP) reinvigorates Vizcaya with the creative dialogue that characterized its foundation, engaging artists whose practice establishes a discourse or a critique with the physical and cultural contexts of the place. In addition to Josiah McElheny's project, Vizcaya has commissioned site-specific work from Ernesto Oroza, Naomi Fisher and Francesco Simeti throughout 2011 and 2012.

About Vizcaya Museum & Gardens Built by businessman James Deering nearly 100 years ago, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is a National Historic Landmark featuring a Main House, ten acres of formal gardens, a hardwood hammock and a historic village. Located at 3251 South Miami Avenue, Vizcaya is open daily from 9:30 to 4:30pm except Tuesdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Visit www.vizcaya.org or call 305 250 9133.

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Josiah McElheny
The Light Club of Vizcaya: A Women´s Picture