Still, Mr. McElheny's fascination is more with stories than with science. A second sculpture in the Rosen show, for example, is part of a continuing series based on a conversation that supposedly took place in 1929 between the Modernist sculptor Isamu Noguchi and the utopian architect and visionary Buckminster Fuller. Their exchange is believed to have posited that the only way to create an object that wouldn't cast a shadow was to make it totally reflective and place it in a totally reflective environment.

So for two of the works, Mr. McElheny built a wall-mounted landscape model in which abstract reflective forms are arranged on a mirrored plane. "It's really a horrible proposal," he said. "You couldn't live in this world. You couldn't escape your own reflection."

Mr. McElheny, who was born in Boston, became involved with glass in 1984, as a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. "I heard this story," he said, "that glass blowing came out of an oral tradition, and that this tradition was passed down from generation to generation. There was an aura of romance and secrecy about it. I wasn't interested in making glass so much as I was interested in this story."

In pursuit of what he felt was "exclusive knowledge, impossible to learn from a book," Mr. McElheny secured an apprenticeship with Ronald Wilkinson, then the head of the White Friars Factory in Britain. "It was a unique opportunity at a historical moment," he said, explaining that many of Europe's family-owned firms were soon to close.

- bill 5-08-2006 2:25 pm

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