Over the past fifteen years, the New York artist Sarah Sze has single-mindedly created a body of work consisting mostly of large-scale, intricate installations. Her works, always specifically conceived for the exhibition venue in question, are for the most part made up of a huge variety of everyday objects. These, however, are by no means chosen at random, but selected with great precision on the basis of their formal qualities or, sometimes, their ambiguity.
In addition to ready-made objects, she also uses hand-made constructions out of “lowly” materials such as matches, thread or paper. These constructions, often seemingly arranged according to archival principles of order, give a coherent structure to the whole.
Sarah Sze’s works form open universes comprising an archaeological diversity of encyclopedic dimensions. They possess the precision of architectural constructions, the formal and colouristic subtlety of pictorial compositions and the quality of spatial motion displayed by multifaceted sculptures. They achieve this by adding an almost musical dimension to the spatiotemporal process of each viewer’s individual perception. Moreover, Sarah Sze orchestrates an abundance of details into complex single motifs, visual melodies contrastive figures, formal counterpoints and an overall composition of airy monumentality. Inspired by Japanese-Chinese horticultural art, the artist creates visual landscapes of an abstract nature which are structured without any trace of hierarchy, yet still offer guidance to the gaze.
Sarah Sze’s works are often designed for display in intermediary places that attract little attention, such as stairwells, side corridors, corners or window niches. Sometimes hovering, and always light and playful, they ask general questions about scale: near and far, heavy and light. They ask questions about their own temporality, the effort involved in their production and their transient nature. Each individual work also interrogates the place in which it is exhibited and the (concrete and ideational) space of art that the viewers enter, often without noticing. Finally, the works involve the viewers in an intensive activity of seeing and challenge them to become aware of their own location and of their own gaze. While the complex structures of Sarah Sze’s installations conceal an abstract reflection of her own personality, they also make the viewers more conscious of their own seeing, and thus of their own existence. Like gigantic scientific models of elegant and meditative microcosms, the works of Sarah Sze seem to comment on our behavioural patterns and our relationship with our world.
Sarah Sze was born in 1969 in Boston. She lives and works in New York.