Michael Petry Adorns Palm Springs With Glass Oracle

Michael Petry

London Artist creates visual complexity with new installation and book

London based artist Michael Petry has launched a follow-up exhibition to his highly acclaimed residency at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in 2011. “The Touch of the Oracle” features three monumental site-specific installations – Golden Rain, Joshua D’s Wall, and The Dilemma.These artworks provide an opportunity for audiences to experience installation-based conceptual artworks by Petry, who draws inspiration from History of Art, mythology, and contemporary culture. Each distinct piece relates and interacts with the others and the visitors, creating an environment filled with sound and visual complexity.

Golden Rain is an installation of 100 gold mirrored droplet-shaped glass vessels that reference the Greek myth of Danae, impregnated by the god Zeus in the form of a golden rain shower. Petry invited 100 international artists to place an artwork, poem, object, or text inside one of the mirrored bottles, asking them to imagine being locked in a tower and having the bottle as their only means of communication. Petry then permanently sealed the mirrored bottles, leaving their contents hidden.

Joshua D’s Wall features is a field of 250 hand-blown glass stones that are scattered over the gallery’s floor. Joshua D’s Wall alludes to the Biblical story of Joshua and the crumbling walls of Jericho. Resembling small boulders, these glass stones evoke the earth’s magma and the many colors found therein, as well as Petry’s own artistic impression of the natural environment.When visiting the museum, he was astounded by the lava rock that forms the walls of the museum’s building. Petry’s work is a direct response to the Palm Springs Art Museum’s architecture and its location near Joshua Tree National Park.

The third component of the installation is The Dilemma, a sound piece that plays periodically throughout the gallery and offers up the possibility of sound as a work of art in and of itself. Using text by Petry set to music by John Powell and Gavin Greenaway, the piece features female and male voices singing a dialogue.The piece’s colloquial themes are inspired by Palm Springs’s historic connection to film and Hollywood.

While Petry is not traditionally associated with the studio glass movement, his creative sensibilities are stimulated by the medium of glass in monumental works. Unlike studio glass artists, Petry does not actually create his individual art objects, but seeks out highly skilled crafts people with whom he collaborates to animate his conceptual ideas. For these installations, he has worked with an inspired team of glass blowers to create works that require a high level of technical expertise.

Michael Petry (born El Paso, Texas, 1960) has lived in London since 1981. He studied at Rice University, Houston (BA), London Guildhall University (MA), and has a Doctor in Arts from Middlesex University. Petry is an internationally exhibited artist, Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) London, Curator of the Royal Academy Schools Gallery and Associate Director at Futurecity.  He co-founded the Museum of Installation, and was Guest Curator at the Kunstakademiet, Oslo, and Research Fellow at the University of Wolverhampton. Petry co-authored Installation Art (1994), and Installation in the New Millennium (2003), and authored Abstract Eroticism (1996) and A Thing of Beauty is…(1997). The Trouble with Michael, a monograph of his practice, was published by Art Media Press in 2001.  Petry’s book Hidden Histories: 20th century male same sex lovers in the visual arts (2004) is the first  comprehensive survey of its kind, and accompanied the exhibition Hidden Histories he curated for The New Art Gallery Walsall. His two-volume book Golden Rain (2008) accompanied his installation for the On the Edge exhibition for Stavanger 2008, European Capital of Culture. Petry’s new book, The Art of Not Making: The New Artist Artisan Relationship for Thames & Hudson was published in April, 2011.  Petry was voted number 69 on the ArtLyst Power 100 list for his work as the first Artist in Residence at Sir John Soane’s Museum (2010/11) exhibiting two bodies of work, published in Smoke & Mirrors (2011).  He has launched a one man show The Touch of the Oracle at the Palm Springs Art Museum March 17 – July 29, 2012   Book available Here