Arlene Shechet Creates Sculpture to Transform Hudson Valley Landscape, Curates “STUFF” at Pace Gallery to Transcend Art History


A touch of teal guides our gaze downward from a perfect black circle spliced ​​into a seven-foot sculpture composed of interactive layers of stained hardwood, steel, glazed ceramic and silver leaf. The towering totem object in a white-walled gallery challenges our perception, how we oscillate between interior and exterior spaces, and how we emotionally navigate the dark spaces between the forms of sculpture. Natural light on the walls eliminates the need for electricity.

mystery of history (2022) is a highlight of Arlene Shechet’s solo exhibition, A pair ofon view at ‘T’ Space, a non-profit art gallery in Rhinebeck, New York, through August 28. The exhibition follows recent solo presentations in Hong Kong and Los Angeles, bringing the work back to the Hudson Valley where Shechet lives and works. A pair of also coincides with THINGSan extensive group exhibition curated by Shechet at the flagship Pace Gallery in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, showcasing his curatorial and inviting eye in an intimate setting and his interactions with other renowned artists, many close friends .

The main installation in the ‘T’ space comprises three sculptures, each executed in a different material (carved wood with steel, cast iron and glazed ceramic), exhibited together to emphasize Shechet’s mastery through the mediums and its fluidity in merging seemingly unrelated discordant forms. and materials.

Shortly after giving birth to her first child in 1986, Shechet began exploring a new technique: building a shape, splitting it in two, rejoining the halves, and splitting the new shape again along a new axis. Years later, she realized the organic connection between motherhood and her creative journey with schism and join, which continues to permeate her singular practice.

Shechet’s distinctive biomorphic sculptures which burst with vibrant color, marry technical skill and intuition, avoiding designs or armatures (frame around which a sculpture is built). Shechet relies on improvisation and possibility, creating ceramic works layered with glazes over multiple firings.

Shechet’s sculptures are a play on texture, color, materiality, imagination and a playful awkwardness to bring joy to the viewer. We usually think of the literary interpretation of couplets as two lines of poetry that generally rhyme, but Shechet’s visual narrative emerges from the formal balance of symmetry, partnership, and the artist-artwork dyad.

We are humbled to meet iron twins (2022), two 650-pound cast iron forms that stand just over two feet tall and retain material traces of the original plaster forms, including tape marks and other defects born from the casting process. casting. It reminds us of the human form, filled with its imperfections and unique traits.

The exhibition extends outdoors to a site-specific work displayed on the nearby ‘T’ space installation path. Projectora partially glazed porcelain sculpture fired over high heat, is nestled between two trees and the natural rock formations of ‘T’ Space’s 30-acre woodland preserve, blending into the landscape.

“I was interested in finding a site to do something outdoors,” Shechet said, describing a walk through the reserve where she encountered “a small mountainous rock. I saw a crevasse there. And there had two trees framing this site and I said ‘ok, this is it, this is my site’ We mapped the site and the three-dimensional crevasse with ropes and sticks, and back into the studio we created a solid frame that had the crevasse space as a negative, basically building the inside out of the rock.Then I made a white porcelain piece from some of the porcelain parts I had left from my Madison Square Park project that I had cast at the Kohler Foundation, and we installed it, and it was a great visual.

Architect Steven Holl designed the cedar gallery space, named for its “T” shape, on a four-acre site near a 1952 “U” shaped stone house, with an addition in 2001 “L” shaped steel. Without plumbing or plasterboard, visitors enter the gallery through an angled wooden ramp and exit on a wooden ramp through a large swinging wall. The gallery floats above the landscape, blurring the boundaries between nature and structure.

“The ability to kind of be in the woods and have art, that’s the next frontier,” said Shechet, who is already planning another exhibit at ‘T’ Space.

Moving away from his heavy Rhinebeck creations, Shechet deployed his curatorial muscle to THINGSto bring together 50 artists from all disciplines and genres and within and beyond the Pace Gallery program, including Lynda Benglis, Huma Bhabha, Nicole Eisenman, Wifredo Lam, Arthur Jafa, Donald Judd, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, Tony Smith , Mickalene Thomas, Lawrence Weiner and Stanley Whitney.

On view at Pace until August 19, THINGS parallels and informs Shechet’s sculpture practice, presenting the work outside of historical context and art chronology, with intuition guiding both its creation and curation. Selecting peers and artists she admires, Shechet presents the works in dialogue with each other from her inimitable perspective. It occupies an entire floor, conveying a familiar atmosphere that welcomes us in a playful way, stripping away all pretension.

Our first glimpse of THINGS is a wallpapered wall created by Shechet to mirror the walls of Fran Lebowitz’s bedroom in Morristown, New Jersey, as captured in a 1974 portrait by Peter Hujar. A naked Lebowitz is propped up on her elbows, wrapped in polka-dot sheets. Lebowitz’s casual gaze is emblematic of the tone Shechet sends throughout the gallery, making us feel at home, in his clever aesthetic. residence.

“Because I’m an artist, I feel freed from the idea of ​​hanging an exhibition in the historical narrative of art. And also, because I’m a sculptor in particular, I wanted to create more than installation, not just hanging things. When I seen that, I said we have to have this T-wall. It’s basically an irregular T,” Shechet explained during a private viewing of the exhibit. “I immediately had the idea to make this wallpaper. It’s screen printing, so it’s kind of a satin iridescent, which almost looked a bit New Jersey to me. If you look a bit and see the way the light hits, it’s almost a very matte black. It’s much prettier than the original wallpaper because it’s handmade. I had this idea of ​​making these walls a floating sculpture, so they themselves are like my contribution, my sculpture inside, because traditionally I wouldn’t want to put my own work in an exhibition that I organized. But its hanging, its conception, the choice of all the works, and also the painting of this line, and this color, relates to my work.

Shechet painted a meticulous and subtle line on the interior walls to gently fix our attention on how the works are hung. Every detail reinforces Shechet’s commitment to giving us a new way to approach an array of familiar works and those we’ve never seen before. His unorthodox point of view offers us a refreshing opportunity to reinvent our experience THINGSrethinking the multiple fungible associations between art and artists.

“In my own thing titles, I like when things have multiple meanings,” Shechet said. “This kind of slippage and Things is very intriguing. I like when it becomes like a verb and a noun and an adjective, it has all these possibilities.


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