With the steel rails of the track running along outside the historical train station, Schantz Galleries
presents Albert Paley: Glass and Steel, celebrating the work of one of the most distinguished and influential metal sculptors in the world. Jim Schantz and Albert Paley have curated a collection of ten sculptures incorporating both steel and glass that show the two materials in graceful synergy. The transformation from station to gallery is beautifully executed and well suited to this important exhibition, located at 2 Depot Street in Stockbridge.
Artist Albert Paley investigates form, explores material characteristics and technical processes, and forges abstract masterpiecesall in service to the notion that art provides access to the intangible facets of the human condition such as emotion, intellect, memory, and aspiration. Paley manipulates material, form, color, and light to create an environment of heightened consciousness where our singular perspective encounters the universality of common experience, and where our imagination is unleashed on the yet-to-be-explored. His abstract assemblages are particularly agile at accessing raw emotion because the narratives are less prescribed; therefore, the discourse between artist and viewer broadens and the layers of meaning deepen.
Paley is most widely known for his forty-year career creating monumental outdoor metal sculptures, each one carefully designed to play off its environment and invite passersby into contemplation. While he is steadfast in his intention for his workthat it be a sensual and intellectual dialoguehe also believes that through research and experimentation he can push the limits of his medium, and through aesthetic flexibility he can continue to evolve as a visual artist. As he says: We dont have stasis in our minds so why should it exist in our artwork.
When Paley was invited to do a summer residency collaboration with glass artist Dante Marioni at the Pilchuck Glass School in 1998, he eagerly brought his creative sensibilities and technical expertise in metalwork into an alliance with glass. Though he was aware of the Studio Glass movement and knew Harvey Littleton and Dale Chihuly, he had never engaged with the material. Steel is opaque, hard, and defined by silhouette, while glass is transparent, reflective, and characterized by light. But at Pilchuck, Paley discovered that different glass techniques such as blowing, forming, and casting have commonality with the forging, bending, and punching of iron and steel. More importantly, he recognized a symbiotic relationship between two inorganic materials that through heat and pressure both submit to manipulation and are transformed into expressions of gesture, movement, and vitality. Paley merges the two materials in graceful synergythe weightiness of metal amplifying the lightness of glass, the fragility of glass highlighting the strength of metal, equivalent forms in different media fluidly intertwining. This complementing of opposites is a visual metaphor for the many dualities of the human condition that exist in dynamic harmony within us.
Each sculpture by Albert Paley bears witness to the processes involved in its development; instead of concealing the signatures of the different machines and tools, Paley chases those effects. Like rings on a tree, this surface variation graphically expresses the physical qualities of the material and tells the story of how the piece is made. Paley will deliberately imprint tool lines in the metal and purposely not polish the pour lines off cast glass, going so far as to have special sessions with glass artists like Martin Blank to experiment with creating lines in glass that mimic the interesting marks of a particular metal press. When he was curious how far much metal could twist, he built his own machine for the task. His year-long 2014 residency at the Corning Museum of Glass afforded him the opportunity to work with specialized technicians, scientists, gaffers, and materials such a borosilicate glass that bonds with a metal alloy because they have the same rate of thermal expansion.
When the glass and metal are similarly opaque, as in Arc III (2017; where the glass is cast not blown), the focus is more on iterations of shape. This sensitivity to the material is common; Paleys compositions are always responsive to the type of glass they feature. Here, the focal half-arc of glass sets off an elaborate study of arcs in metaltightly coiled, thinly pulled, undulating in sheets, curling in and around each other, their different patinas setting them off as additional arcs are created in negative spaces and moments of connection. Blue Enigma (2012) marries distinctive glass techniques with different complimentary metalwork in a single piece. The placid geometric stillness of the blue glass rondel (created on the end of a pipe by flattening it out) reflects in the metal base, while the organic swirling hot-sculpted glass elements mirror in writhing contortions of steel. The sculpture is a paradox between stillness and motion, a moment captured in physical stasis but experienced as dynamic and fluid, a present reality that projects into the past but also imagines a possible future where the artist reheats the elements and alters the composition anew.
Paley has said, there is a vocabulary of form for any given medium. The more technically proficient one becomes, the more they can explore. He likens that exploration to a dance, in which there is a sense of the choreography but also a sense of letting go and moving unconsciously to the music. Paley uses his immense knowledge, both of the materials he uses and the art historical precedents he admires, as his guide to an open inquiry into the unknown, endeavoring to prevent his established notions and processes from becoming an impediment to seeing and doing new things. His ink on paper monoprints are reductive expressions of this search that allow him to probe formal elements outside his familiar materials. Rather than charting a definitive narrative, each work of art by Albert Paley provides a map to an encounter with our emotional selves. By his deft technical and aesthetic skills, we are quickly freed from our consciousness to wander the intricate twists and turns of each piece, discovering along the way a metaphor for the enigmas, experiences, and ecstasies of the human condition.
Per guidelines from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Stockbridge Station and Schantz Galleries are now open by appointment, by calling 413-298-3044 or appointments can easily be made online, for Thursday through Sunday. www.schantzgalleries.com