In 2013, the United States selected Boston-born, New York-based artist Sarah Sze to exhibit her work in their national pavilion at the 55th installment of the Venice Biennale. For the event, Sze created one of her signature installations; intricate and vast, she stacked, suspended and strung ordinary objects together to create elaborate assemblages. The resulting structures take advantage of the architecture that surrounds them, changing one’s perception of the physical space through engagement with its design.
Ms. Sze’s work is often characterized by a tendency to relate an installation intimately to its context. For the High Line in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, the artist created Still Life with Landscape (Model for a Habitat) (2011). For this raised, outdoor setting, Sze constructed a geometric myriad of intersecting sculptural elements, bisected by the footpath of the High Line itself. This functional mini complex acted as a bird, butterfly and insect observatory, and featured bird feeds and baths throughout.
In another example, for a project at the Asia Society in New York, titled Hidden Relief (2001), Sze searched for a location within the building where her audience could come upon her installation unexpectedly. She settled on a small corner adjacent to the freight elevator, near to the Rockefeller’s collection of ancient art. By using her humble materials in this space, Sze drew attention to their less dignified nature. Furthermore, the artist began her installation by manipulating the paint peeling from the existing wall, incorporating the actual fabric of the environment into her piece. Her sculpture thus seemed to have evolved from natural entropic processes.
Superficially, Ms. Sze’s works display properties of chaos, randomness and temporality, with household materials strewn and scattered across the space. In reality, however, her work is precise, planned and purposeful. In her solo exhibition, she aims to evoke the anxiety and uncertainty of wandering amongst all-too-familiar materials, simultaneously forcing her audience to wonder, is this art?
The verdict – Ms. Sze is a brilliant, internationally-recognized artist. Aside from the honor of representing the United States in the 2013 Venice Biennale, Ms. Sze was the 2003 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, with work exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the MoMA in New York City, the Serpentine Gallery in London, the High Museum in Atlanta and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, to name only some of the world-class cultural institutions that recognize her talent.
Ms. Sze’s work is detailed and complex, displaying prominent architectural elements with artistic influences by Richard Serra, Robert Rauschenberg and Agnes Martin. Her installations exhibit a sense of duality, bound by their physical makeup yet constantly in flux; in the days leading up to her show, she rearranges the materials, changing and manipulating the space until she’s content with the outcome. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Sze reasons, ‘Why wouldn’t you change everything up to the last minute?’ Upon the opening of her exhibition, Ms. Sze’s work is complete.
Sarah Sze lives and works in New York. She received her BA from Yale University in 1991, and her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1997. Don’t miss her exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, which runs from the 10th of September to the 17th of October, 2015.
By Ellen Von Wiegand and Rachel Gould