Creative Mind: Sarah Sze
Sze is celebrated for her dazzling multimedia installations that explore notions of space, time, and memory
Great art is often produced in challenging times and nowhere is that more evident than in the work of artist Sarah Sze. “My work has always been based on the idea of being nimble, transformative, and responsive,” says MacArthur Fellowship winner Sarah Sze, who is celebrated for her dazzling multimedia installations that explore notions of space, time, and memory. “When things are difficult, work does not slow or cease. To an extent, artists are lightning rods for what is going on in life and culture. It is about staying wide open to the realities of the world.” Last summer, her ethereal site-specific sculpture, Shorter than the Day, seemed to stop time at Terminal B of LaGuardia airport in New York. Commissioned by LaGuardia Gateway Partners and Public Art Fund, features some 1,200 photographs of the sky above New York, all shot over the course of one day, affixed to steel rods.
During the depths of the pandemic, she and her team also installed a major exhibition entitled “Night into Day” in Paris at the Fondation Cartier. Currently closed to the public due to lockdown measures, the ambitious exhibition features an immersive, illuminated planet-like structure of colorful video projections gleaned from the internet as well as a giant mirrored structure set beneath a pendulum.
Organic process: “It is the growth over time that is interesting to me, not the idea of starting a work. When I see artists’ retrospectives, what I notice are the decisions made from one work to the next. In seeing one work in the continuum of time, I see that there are many decisions possible in the passage from one work to the next. When I am in the process of making a work, I am always thinking ahead to what comes next.”
Up Next: On May 22, her site-specific commission Fallen Sky, ten years in the making, will debut at Storm King Art Center in upstate New York. “I spent a lot of time in the landscape at Storm King to find the site,” Sze says. “Storm King is not a natural landscape; it is contrived, in the same way as Olmsted’s wilderness parks are. This is of great interest to me. The Storm King site is very different to much of the Hudson Valley in that there is a big open sky above it. So I had the idea to harness that sky and bring it down to earth. I discovered a sort of natural bowl in the earth, left from the removal of a huge tree. I nestled Fallen Sky right down into that bowl.”
Inspirations: “In making this concave work to mirror the arcing sky above it, I was inspired, among other things, by several ancient structures in India (where in normal conditions I spend time annually with my family), including the incredible stepwells, engineering feats that allow people to access water, are negative pyramidal sculptures in the ground made by digging down to create space; the Jantar Mantar astrological complex, a celestial measure of the sky made, again, by digging down into the ground.; and the Ellora and Ajanta caves with their harnessing of negative space.”
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2021 Spring Issue under the headline “Creative Minds.” Subscribe to the magazine.