Vielmetter Los Angeles is thrilled to announce our second solo exhibition of new work by Arlene Shechet. Shechet’s approach to sculpture is both rigorous and playful, rooted in transformations of experience and material. In Best Picture, the artist continues to explore the evocative potential of objects; bringing together a winning cast of characters rendered in ceramic, metal, and wood.
Best Picture is an ironic name for a show of sculptures; it directs the viewer to consider Shechet’s painterly approach to sculpture. Her work revels in interactions between color and shape, balance and the askew, rendering sculptural objects that are at once convincingly unified shapes and obviously composed in “real-time.” The artist composes her work in a series of intuitive moves building one upon the other, without referring to sketches or maquettes. Color, in the form of glaze and paint comes last, always applied with a great deal of attention to finish and texture, compliment and contrast. This results in sculptures that defy viewers’ anticipations; “real time” discovery is part of the viewing experience too. With each turn, a new detail or element reveals itself, inviting prolonged examination and conversation between viewer and sculpture, building intimacy between their body and the work.
In this way, the work is also suggestively social. Like a friend leaning over to whisper a secret, works like Pulse and Powder, 2021 and Vice Versa, 2021 gesture subtly. In the first case, the work leans in its entirety, just about to join you as you walk around the room, caught in a shift of balance that is usually so transitory as to pass notice. From one angle Vice Versa tips its “head” – an inquiry articulated by an object. These gestures hint at aliveness; a presence that signals the viewer’s socialization to feel and respond to certain gestures as much as their aesthetic discernment. At the same time as the work makes these bids to feeling and the body, the sculptures invite the viewer to engage on an intellectual level, making many intersecting references to the history and theory of sculpture.
Take for example Altered State, 2020. The sculpture is composed of a vertical element standing on the far edge of a horizontal element; like a figure standing at one edge of a horizontal “floor” or “pier.” Composed of painted and not painted wood and glazed ceramic, this “body” appears, from most angles, to be looking down at the horizontal plane. A hollow, slightly tapered, ceramic cylinder hinges the blocky wood “head” down toward the floor. From one view, this “head” is unpainted wood, with a rectangular solid of black painted wood inset, appearing almost like eyes behind a pair of large dark glasses. As one moves around the work, this illusion of a face disintegrates into ever more complex intersections of shapes and apertures. The horizontal element of the sculpture is composed of five railroad ties, three on top, two on the bottom with a gap in the center. A sheet of raw steel unifies the wooden support, creating an even floor beneath the vertical body. Between the steel and the body of the sculpture, a series of hand-made, reflective electroplated tiles, imperfectly reflect the “body” of the sculpture, the viewer, and the room.
There is a distinct riff on Carl Andre in these tiles and an insistence on the modernist incorporation of the base into the formal composition of the sculpture; made ever more insistent by minimalist sculptors’ placement of their works directly onto the floor. The tiles are on a floor, but this floor is also part of the work, a distinction that cracks this architectural contingency borrowed from minimalism, without entirely abandoning it. It is this bricolage of strategies, ideas of sculpture, social experience, and the artist’s own innovations and perspective that creates the distinctly serious fun of Shechet’s sculpture.
Arlene Shechet is a multidisciplinary sculptor living and working in New York City and the Hudson Valley. A major, critically acclaimed survey of her work, All At Once, curated by Jenelle Porter, was on view at The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, in 2015. Later this year, Shechet will open a solo exhibition at the Harvard Art Museums and in 2023 she will open a solo exhibition titled The Rising Sun at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and unveil a new public installation for the Stuart Collection at the University of California San Diego. In 2018, her ambitious, monumental public project Full Steam Ahead was on view at Madison Square Park in New York. Shechet has received numerous awards, including a John S. Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship Award (2004), the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant (2010), and the 2016 CAA Artist Award for Distinguished Body of Work. Her work also includes a curatorial component as in exhibitions like Ways of Seeing: Three Takes on the Jack Shear Collection at the Drawing Center, New York (2021); Porcelain, No Simple Matter: Arlene Shechet and the Arnhold Collection at The Frick Collection, New York (2016); and From Here On Now at The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., (2016). Her work is held in many distinguished public collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, New York; CCS Bard Hessel Museum, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; The Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Jewish Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.
Vielmetter Los Angeles is located at 1700 S Santa Fe Ave in downtown Los Angeles. Gallery Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am - 6 pm and by appointment.