A conversation with Alyson Shotz
Alyson Shotz (b. 1964, Glendale, Arizona) received an MFA from the University of Washington, Seattle, and a BFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1987, after studying Geology at the University of Colorado. From that time, the artist still retains her interest in scientific investigations on the nature of space. Since her first production of sculptures in the mid-1990s, Shotz’s work takes hold of a broad variety of materials—synthetic, textiles, or metals—to explore our modes of perceiving space, the limits of experience, and essential physical phenomena such as gravity, tension, and movement. Commenting on recently-found evidence that matter only amounts to 4% of the universe, the artist has declared: “My work began with a question about space: what is it, what is it made of, how does it shape everything we see around us. The substance of space eludes us. Much of my work seeks to visualize this empty space, as well as portraying gravity and light. I consider these natural forces to be primary materials a sculptor can make use of."
Object for Reflection (2017) consists of countless small pieces of perforated aluminum connected by rings of steel, which in contact with light act as pixels on a screen and create a subtle and constant vibration. While the back of the work offers a multiplicity of dark shades on the metallic surface, the front side acts as a highly refractive support. Object for Reflection thus stands as a large scale sculpture whose verticality—between textile and architectural—establishes a dialogue with the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao’s iconic spaces. At the same time, the work responds with intensity to the light conditions and the movement of spectators around it. To achieve this complexity of effects, Shotz creates the illusion of a solid volume and confronts it with the folds of a flexible material, thus producing an alloy of weight and weightlessness, rigidity and malleability, opacity and translucency. As the artist explained during the presentation of Object for Reflection at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the piece takes as its starting point the monumentality of modernist sculpture in metal, but only to reformulate the latter’s traditional role and value. While its authoritative weight decreases, its complexity expands dramatically.