Sunday, June 5, 2011

Albert Paley @ Gerald Peters Gallery

Gerald Peters has a huge pueblo-style gallery with outdoor space here in Santa Fe, the perfect venue to show the art of Albert Paley.

Albert Paley (Philadelphia 1944-) started out as a jeweler buy he never made small delicate jewels he made major statements. It wasn't long until his statements became larger and he turned them into incredible pieces of metal furniture with lyrical lines. Later he continued to create the decorative arts but increasingly worked on major pieces of sculpture in his 40,000 square foot studio in Rochester, New York.

Penelope met Albert in her days working in the 20th Century Department at the Metropolitan Museum and they stayed in touch. Once when she went to his studio he had just found his first winch, an elevator winch, which could twist metal. He gave her an illustration piece.

Believe it or not in the early 1980’s she was allowed to hand carry this ten pound piece of twisted steel onto her plane home. Things have gotten heavier and larger since. The exhibition that arrived 25 years later in Santa Fe was brought on two semi 18 wheelers carrying three tons each of Albert's work, his art is not for the faint of heart!

The Peters’ gallery director for contemporary art, Abigail von Schlegell, supervised the full day of off loading from the trucks and then four days of unpacking and installation. It wasn't as if she could change her mind and move the indoor sculptures (300-800 lbs.) around on her own.

The resulting exhibition does justice to both Albert's largest pieces and his small objects including candlesticks and even a menorah.

Many of the table objects are placed in a smaller gallery and usually on top of one of Albert's tables, so as not to be dwarfed by the sculpture.  Since, when one is installing very heavy items such as library shelves for art books or large pieces of sculpture one must keep in mind the weight that the floor will bear, the sculpture that is12 feet high and weighs 1200 pounds was a special challenge. That remains outside. Still, looking at the gallery, the way the exhibition seems to build up to the larger pieces and the way the walls are used for drawings make it work wonderfully.

As much as I like Albert’s sculpture in the appropriate outdoor setting I tend to gravitate back to my roots and enjoy the objects and furniture most. The piece I would buy for myself, not necessarily the one I might buy for the museum, is a round glass topped table. Needless to say, that is one of the first pieces that was sold from the show… yes, I did pick it before I saw the red dot!

Working on the scale he does Albert is preparing two years ahead for a bigger challenge: sculpture to adorn Park Avenue like Jeff Koons’ current installation.