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Albert Paley: Forging Sculpture

Albert Paley: Forging Sculpture

    The Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph, Mich., is currently hosting a traveling collection of Albert Paley’s sculpture. The gallery, Albert Paley: Forging Sculpture, opened on Friday, Jan. 27 with an informative presentation from the curator and live music. The gallery also included an interactive craft project in which young and old alike could participate in the exhibit by constructing their own elaborate Paley-esque sculpture from metallic paper and attaching it to a hat. These mobile and temporary pieces wandering through the gallery provided a lighthearted contrast to the thousands of pounds of steel artwork filling the room. The gallery hosts about a dozen sculptures and a few drawings Paley completed primarily during a residency at Steneby, The School of Craft and Design at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Paley is an American sculptor from Pennsylvania. He began as a jeweler and then moved towards steel as a medium for works from functional design to large-scale public sculpture. He has been commissioned for projects such as the Animals Always gates at the St. Louis Zoo, a series of thirteen sculptures temporarily exhibited on Park Avenue in New York City, and the Odyssey series of four 46 to 60 foot tall sculptures on an overpass at the entrance to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The works on display at the Krasl are smaller, and there is an organic feel to all of the sculpture, though their forms vary. One work, titled Steneby Four, conveys weightlessness at first glance through its curving, ribbon-like sheets of steel. They fold and intertwine with a dynamic energy, but a series of heavy, asymmetrical shapes near the base, along with a low pyramidal composition grounds the work as a whole.

Sculpture VI combines a variety of textures and forms, creating a complex arrangement that pulls the viewer in to walk around and see it from all angles. A smooth, thin piece of steel, echoing the ribbons from Steneby Four, twirls and wraps its way around a tall, narrow, board-like piece, contrasting with its mossy, rough texture. To the right of this are three smaller columns with a more muted version of the first’s texture in shallower relief. Polished, pipe-like pieces hang around a vaguely tree-bark textured column in the foreground. At the very top of the composition, large scrappy-edged pieces curve outward and up like the petals of a flower, making the work appear unsteady and top-heavy despite its wide base.

Other sculptures in the exhibit seem to echo natural elements such as leaves and the flowing motions of wind or water. These elements all combine to contrast with the sturdy industrial medium. However, the skill with which Paley manipulates the steel pushes this contrast into the background upon viewing his work.

I personally enjoyed Forging Sculpture, and will probably go back at a time when it is less crowded than it was at the exhibit’s opening. The gallery, which is free and open to the public, will remain at the Krasl Art Center until April 9.  More information about exhibit hours is available at www.krasl.org

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