In March of 2012, Ruth Lawrence Fine Art introduced at the Art Naples Contemporary Art Fair the concept drawings and maquettes developed by Rochester metal sculptor Albert Paley for an ambitious summer exhibit on Park Avenue in New York. The 13-piece sculptural exhibit opened on schedule on June 29 and will remain on display between 52nd and 67th Streets through November 8, 2013.
Paley is an internationally-renowned sculptor, author and lecturer with numerous ties to Southwest Florida. He is responsible for the 16-by-10-foot steel, bronze and stainless steel gates at the entrance to the Baker Museum of Art in Naples. The bronze ribbon handles on the doors to the lobby of the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts are his too. So is Naiad, the colorful freestanding archisculpture that stretches three stories into the Florida sky atop the circular pedestal in the entry way to the Riviera-St. Tropez Condominium complex adjoining Beau Rivage on the outskirts of the Fort Myers River District. Paley sculpted and installed Florida Gulf Coast University’s Cross Currents too.
The Park Avenue project brings renewed interest and stature to these and Paley’s entire body of work. Stretching back four decades, the artist has more than 50 major site-specific works to his credit. But “Paley on Park Avenue” is his most high-profile endeavor. “There can be few exhibition platforms in the world to equal the distinction, visibility and excitement of Park Avenue,” Paley acknowledges.
The exhibition is sponsored by the Fund for Park Avenue’s Temporary Public Art Collection in conjunction with New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation. “They said I could have all of Park Avenue,” Paley advises, but he opted for sites from 52nd to 67th Streets because they represent “the spectrum from the financial district, where the sculptures are bolder, through a residential area, where the sculptures are more detailed and intimate.”
It only took 25 minutes to install each sculpture, but the project is the culmination of more than three years of planning. It took Paley and his team more than 14 months and 750 separate pieces of metal to fabricate the 13 sculptures, which weigh collectively nearly 54 tons. Viewed in series, whether by taxi or on foot, the installation reflects the movement and dynamism for which New York City is known.
Although not technically site-specific, Paley has strategically placed each sculpture where it best complements the surrounding structures and urban landscape. For example, he put a horizontal sculpture opposite the Seagram Building to accentuate the open plaza areas of the site. By contrast, Paley chose for the wide expanse at 57th Street a pair of tall, vertical sculptures that reflect that intersection’s scale, vibrancy and frenetic energy.
“With this series of sculptures created especially for Park Avenue, [Albert Paley] firmly places his work and himself in the center of Manhattan,” opines Patterson Sims, independent curator and member of the Sculpture Advisory Committee of The Fund for Park Avenue. “With an ambition seldom matched in the series of Park Avenue sculpture installations, Paley has created a new body of work that celebrates the city and the site’s energy and takes his own fusion of delicacy, complexity, and monumentality to new heights.”
Paley’s sculptural and decorative art work is also now on view at Art Southhampton, a five day fine arts festival opening today and continuing through July 29. In August, his work will be represented at Art Aspen (August 1 – 4), and on September 12, Manhattan’s Gerald Peters Gallery will open an exhibition of Paley’s drawings and maquettes of the Park Avenue sculptures. That date will also mark the release of a 144-page, full color catalogue published by Paola Gribaudo, with a forward written by Gerald Peters and an introduction written by Charles C. Bergman.
In October, the Peabody Award-winning Craft in America series on PBS will feature Paley as their final forge artist in Season 5. Following the show’s theme and format, Paley will reveal in his own words what makes his work and career unique among metal sculptors.
Other upcoming exhibitions of Paley’s work include a comprehensive survey in 2015 at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington that features more than 60 sculptures and 30 framed works on paper. The first museum exhibition to focus on Paley’s glass and steel sculptures, following its run in Tacoma, the Museum of Glass exhibit will travel the nation.