At the intersection of architecture, steel forging and glass casting lies the work of Albert Paley. This convergence is explored in an exhibition entitled "Complementary Contrasts: The Glass and Steel Sculptures of Albert Paley" opening at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington, on September 9th, 2017. Running through September 2018, the year-long exhibit aims to view glass and its applications through the eyes of artists who may not work in the medium exclusively.
Museum of Glass curator Katie Buckingham said that by incorporating artists such as jewelers, painters and poets into the museum’s exhibition schedule, a larger picture of what is possible with glass, and the interconnectedness of various media, comes into focus. “Through the hot shop we’ve always tried to invite artists from outside the traditional studio glass discipline to think differently about the material,” she said. “We always try to include a look at how glass is being used in the larger context of contemporary art and craft, and also where it might be going in the future.”
In the case of Albert Paley, who has been incorporating glass into his metal sculptures since a Pilchuck residency over 20 years ago, this exhibition aims to cover the range and development of Paley’s work in glass over the years. “It was such a unique opportunity to get to think about glass sculpturally, through his lens,” Buckingham said. “So I think that what we’re trying to do in the show, and what Albert is trying to do, is show his evolution of thought with glass, and sort of touch on each of his points of interaction with glass and glass artists.” Included in this survey of Paley’s oeuvre are works from multiple residencies, including the inaugural specialty glass residency at Corning and multiple residencies at the MOG, as well as several collaborations, such as work with Martin Blank and William Carlson.
Paley told GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet in a phone interview that his process is one of exploration and investigation, with the desired outcome being expanded perception based on expanded experience. “And the broader-based your experience is, the further insight you have to certain human sensibilities and visual phenomena,” he said.
By working in glass and exploring the paradox intrinsic to the union of glass and metal materials, Paley seeks to magnify these fundamental human experiences. “Even though metal is quite different from glass, the form context is very similar, that of plasticity, of alterability and change, and so on,” he said. “So what I wanted to try to do is to create a dialogue, where the metal and the glass kind of codetermine one another.”
These properties that are fundamental to each material play an important role both in Paley’s process as well as his end product. While they are opposites in strength and opacity, they share in the general process of forming and sculpting, and therefore in the movement and texture that they are able to capture. “So you create gesture; you create movement. And upon the material cooling, the motion is kind of frozen,” Paley said. “And when a person looks at the material, they experience gesture, they experience movement, but they know it’s not moving, but they get to experience that.”
That experience, as natural and human as it may innately be, is the product of continuous experimentation and exploration that continues to grow, as Paley has been given a third residency at MOG for January. “I’ve been very fortunate through my career that opportunities have been afforded me that allow me to use those tools of investigation into various materials and different applications,” he said. That investigation is evident in this exhibition, and after so many years of opportunity to explore the relationship between metal and glass from so many angles that is constantly developing, the career of Albert Paley is a unique one.
“Complementary Contrasts: The Glass and Steel Sculptures of Albert Paley”
September 9, 2017 – September 3, 2018
Museum of Glass
1801 Dock Street