Think of metal sculpture, and whether the image that comes to mind is a general on a horse or a twisting, arcing abstract, the same adjectives usually apply: solid, heavy, imposing, rigid. Alyson Shotz turns those notions on their head with her sculptures- flexible, shimmering works that evoke natural scenes in gallery settings.
Shotz’s latest piece, “Plane Weave,” was created specifically for the Morris Gallery at PAFA (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts), responding to the light streaming in from the skylight overhead as well as to the mosaic tilework that occurs throughout the Academy’s Historic Landmark Building. The tapestry-like sculpture is made up of thousands of small pieces of punched aluminum and stainless steel rings, allowing the metallic piece to flex like fabric or rippling waves.
“It’s almost a collaboration in a way between me and the light,” Shotz says of the piece. “I wouldn’t say my work is about the materials — it’s about how those materials act in concert with physical forces of nature like gravity and light.”
While she laments that her busy career keeps her inside her studio or at galleries, Shotz spent much of her early life taking in nature. “I’ve looked at a lot of light changing over the landscape in my life,” she says, “and I think that had a huge influence on my work.”
“Plane Weave” functions in much the same way, echoing both the shimmering play of light on water as well as the pixelated images of a digital screen. Shotz hopes that museum visitors will tear themselves away from smartphones in order to spend some time with the piece as the light shifts and moves.
“Even if you sit with it for just five or ten minutes you can see the light slightly changing, which is something you’re not generally aware of in daily life except at a sunset,” says Shotz says, who herself was still discovering the way that light affected the piece as she was installing it last week. “I really hope people will do that.”
Alyson Shotz: Plane Weave
April 21-Aug. 7
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
118-128 N. Broad St.