Last week saw the changing of the guard at the Henry Art Gallery—20-year director Richard Andrews had his last day last Friday, and new director Sylvia Wolf started this Monday—and as if to commemorate, there was a lowering of the flag on the museum's Richard Andrews Overlook. (That's the new name for the balcony above the museum's high- ceilinged East Gallery.) It wasn't a flag, exactly, but a 12-foot-high sculpture that looks like a chandelier brought low.

It is a chandelier brought low, but its origins have nothing to do with the Henry. I wish: I'd love to see a large, commissioned exhibition by the extraordinary artist who created this work, Josiah McElheny.

Instead, the work hangs alone, like a reinterpretation of something in Jay Gatsby's house. It's titled The Last Scattering Surface. McElheny, a former Seattle resident and a trained glassblower, made the work in 2006, in an homage to the extravagant modern-and– Gilded Age chandeliers at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, as well as to the keystone discovery of modern science, the big bang. It turns out that the Met chandeliers were designed the same year as news reports of the first physical evidence of the big bang—1965.

By then, the sturdy high walls of modernism were already pumped full of holes and ready to fall into the crumbly, exuberantly disparate remains of postmodernism. McElheny saw a correspondence between postmodernism's opening up of culture and the beginning of the universe, represented by the moments when light and matter decoupled, allowing the process of planets and stars and moons forming to become visible. With help from cosmologist David Weinberg, McElheny created, essentially, a monument to the moment of modernism's collapse.

He fabricated the thousand or so glass pieces by hand and hired a California company for the 5,000 metal parts. The form is based in fact: The length of each chrome rod represents an amount of time, and glass pieces at the end of each rod demonstrate the galaxy formations that were going on at that time.

The shift at the Henry is a shift in the Seattle art universe, and we have little idea what it will end up forming. While I looked at McElheny's universe, Henry outgoing director Andrews was upstairs in his office, packing boxes. For the new director, he was leaving behind books and a pin that says, "Ask Me, I Know." On the windowsill was a brick pulled from the demolition of the old museum building, which Andrews expanded. He couldn't decide whether to leave it there or take it home. recommended