Tucked away in a Midtown Manhattan hallway is an oasis of shimmering waters: five glass panels of varying heights are printed with images of rippling water and layered on top of each other. Light pours through the panes and casts a brilliant blue hue onto the walls behind them against which they lean, subtly pulling the space into the artwork.
“I wanted the work to engulf you and act like a portal, transforming the space it is installed in,” artist Melissa McGill told Artnet News. The piece, titled These waters, is an order for the “Anatomy of Beauty” show, which is open until September at the Vacheron Constantin flagship. “The viewer is both reflected in the work and drawn into it. The size and placement of each glass panel evokes the rise and fall of the tides.
While they may appear primordial and mystical, the waters depicted here are images of the Hudson River near the upstate New York town where McGill resides.
Its scope ranges from hyperlocal to interstellar. “These waves has a cosmic dimension,” she explained, “connecting to the way waves ripple with starlight in the sun connecting heaven and earth.
At last week’s premiere, waiters hovered around platters of china spoons with charred octopus over artichoke puree and king crab, garnished with nasturtium leaves. The exhibition mixes art with a selection of the company’s timepieces, including beautiful archival vintage timepieces displayed in cases atop coral images. The sparkle depicted in the artwork is a reverberating pattern in the jewels and precious metals of the surrounding fine timepieces. There were also subtle design parallels, such as a remarkable 1822 gold pocket watch with multicolored amethysts in a delicate wave pattern.
The show seemed to compare and contrast nature’s perfection and complexity with man’s attempt to achieve this beauty through art and craft.
“Anatomy of Beauty” is the latest artistic extension of the venerable brand, which was founded in 1755. Other artists who have previously been featured for Constantin Vacheron include sculptor Chris Burden, photographer Cory Richards and playful pop artist Jojo Anavim.
On the wall next to the entrance is an imposing large-scale sculpture depicting coral, oversized watch pieces, and magnifying glasses. the work, Our Changing Seas III, is on loan from artist and marine conservationist Courtney Mattison.
McGill’s work also has a decidedly eco-conscious orientation. “These waters aims to inspire conversation about our changing climate, rising seas and the preciousness of water – our lifeblood,” she said. “Through the language of water, viewers are reminded that they are one with the natural world, not separate from it.”
These waters is McGill’s largest work on glass, but it is not its grandest expression. Often inspired by nature, the 2019 interdisciplinary artist red regatta room, have filled the canals of Venice with 52 traditional canals vela al terzo boats with hand-painted crimson sails (she later documented the reflections of the sails on the waters in a photographic extension).
Constellation was a sculpture project where LED lights were placed on top of poles to mimic the stars in the sky. “My work takes the form of immersive site-specific experiences that explore nuanced conversations between water, land, and enduring traditions in a spirit of reciprocity and interdependence,” McGill said. “Walking along the liminal space of the Hudson River in the Hudson Valley where I live is a daily ritual. Over the past two years I have produced a new body of work based on my personal year-round observations of the Hudson as an enduring life force.
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