When patrons walk into the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art’s exhibition space during Piccolo Spoleto this year, they’ll be greeted by more than 50 of sculptor Alyson Shotz’ ethereal, category-defying works. According to Halsey director Mark Sloan, this exhibition, Alyson Shotz: Force of Nature — which is jointly presented by the Halsey and Hamilton College in New York — will be Shotz’ biggest, most ambitious show to date. Among the pieces it includes are large-scale sculptures, a wall drawing, and animation.
Like artist Patricia Boinest Potter, whose science-enriched “isomorphic map tables” were on view at the Halsey in January, Shotz examines the intersection of science and math in art through subjects such as light, gravity, and space. She expands on notions of space and form in sculpture by utilizing nontraditional materials such as glass beads and welded aluminum to construct significantly large-scale pieces.
Shotz earned her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from the University of Washington, Seattle. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y., and her work is included in numerous public collections such as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. and the Whitney Museum of American Art, to name a few.
Shotz created several new and site-specific works for the Force of Nature show. The installation “Invariant Interval” reinforces her ongoing explorations of materiality and will be a major focal point at the gallery. The sculpture is a towering 20 by 30 feet and is made up of stainless steel, spring-tempered wire, and silvered beads. “‘Invariant Interval’ was, in a sense, my favorite in terms of taking it a long time to figure out,” remarks Shotz. “I still feel like there is more to explore in that piece.”
Because the sculpture is suspended from the ceiling, the weight of the beads affects the sculpture by causing curvature and rotation. “I’m thinking about topology [the mathematical study of shapes and space through stretching and bending] and gravitational waves to some extent, but also thinking about line and its role in sculpture,” Shotz explains. Expanding the exhibit into the Cato Center for the Arts, Shotz will create a band of vinyl decals which produce an etched-glass effect — these will be on long-term display. These delicate pieces, according to Shotz, are reminiscent of a Möbius strip exploring the geometric concept of a continuum, or a shape that has no boundaries.
The experience of time is also of particular interest to Shotz: new animation inspired by Van Gogh’s painting “Bedroom in Arles” and the final act of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey will be a major part of the exhibition. Depicting a modern version of Van Gogh’s bedroom, the video’s three eight-minute segments portray the passage of time through the play of sunlight and starlight in the room.
“I’m fascinated by the suspension of time and isolation one feels in both bedrooms that Van Gogh and Kubrick have portrayed. The animation will highlight the strange, yet seemingly commonplace experience of living on a planet in space, rotating around a sun, through a series of day and night cycles,” she says. “I’m also thrilled to be collaborating with [musician] Nasheet Waits on the soundtrack. Time seems to contract and expand when one hears him perform.”