NEW YORK, NY -- Albert Paley, born in 1944 in Philadelphia, is known for his great skill in metal working, from large-scale architectural sculptures for the exterior to smaller-scale works for domestic interiors. After earning his B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees from Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia in the late 1960s, Paley joined the faculty of the School for American Craftsmen at Rochester Institute of Technology. A year later, he established gold and metalsmithing studios in his home in Rochester, NY. He began his career as a jewelry artist before developing a method of engineering forged steel furniture and immense sculptures.
Paley sought “to transform the jeweler’s art” and reinvented traditional jewelry forms by creating wearable metal sculptures. Unlike Paley’s later metalwork, his jewelry rarely began with study drawings. The jewelry pieces were “eye-popping” and sometimes covered the body from shoulders to waist. He won the Renwick Gallery’s national design competition in 1974 and received his first major non-jewelry commission to design decorative metal doors for the Renwick’s gift shop, which he titled Portal Gates. Taking inspiration from Art Nouveau, the gates incorporated winding tendrils and natural forms. This commission opened other doors for Paley and gave him international recognition. Abandoning his jewelry creations, Paley turned to larger organic and architectural forms influenced by European Art Nouveau and Post-War American Abstract Expressionism.
Paley’s first metal functional objects included candlesticks and planters, and later evolved into furniture forms, including tables, plant stands and floor lamps. His early furniture pieces incorporated writhing tendrils, much like his Portal Gates commission. As Paley’s variety of forms increased, the designs became increasingly complex. Often a variety of elements would be attached to a steel core, usually consisting of blades, leaves, petals, and tendrils. For large-scale works over 30 feet, pieces were cut out of steel plate, cold-formed and welded together to create new motifs such as ribbons, squares and boxes.
To create his works, Paley first comes up with the idea for his design. Next, he puts the idea on paper and creates cardboard 3D models. Afterward, a computer-aided design maquette is created. Once the form has been finalized, the full size design would be forged in steel. Some of the large sculptures take months to complete between the various stages. All of the pieces are designed by Paley and forged and fabricated at Paley Studios in Rochester by Paley and his staff. By forging the metal, Paley works with the plasticity of the material. Pounding the hot steel allows for a large repertoire of forms, such as long tendrils, whiplash curves, twists and blades. By using a power hammer, Paley can thin out thick steel bars effortlessly and flatten out heavy iron rods.
Albert Paley was the first metal sculptor to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute of Architects, the highest award to a non-architect. Paley’s body of work includes over 50 site-specific installations such as Animals Always created in 2006 for the St. Louis Zoo. Paley on Park Avenue: New York City spanned three-quarters of a mile on one of the busiest streets in Manhattan in 2013. In 2014, the Corning Museum of Glass and Corning Incorporated chose Paley as the first artist for a glass residency program, where he incorporated glass into his steel sculptures using Corning specialty glass mixtures. Works by Albert Paley can be found in many permanent collections, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and The Victorian and Albert Museum in London, among many others.
Koplos, Janet and Bruce Metcalf. Makers: A History of American Studio Craft. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.
Auction Nov 21, 2017
Exhibition on view Nov 18 - 20
The Doyle+Design auction offers a dynamic steel and glass table by Albert Paley. Undulating ribbon forms, stylized organic shapes, and a jagged metal base evoke a moving form in the stationary object. View Lot 267