Hector, 1990, steel with red paint
Collection of The Mennello Museum of American Art, purchased by Friends of The Mennello Museum of American Art, 2016, from Paley Studios Archive, Rochester, NY
In creating a work of art, besides my personal experience, my concern is how it emotionally and intellectually engages the viewer. Through the creative process I have developed a personal visual vocabulary fundamentally based in symbolism and metaphor which is implicit in my work. —Albert Paley
Removed from its traditional context as a strong and secure medium of modern building construction, Albert Paley manipulates the effects of heated steel, only momentarily made pliable by fire to create organic, supple and tactile sculptural elements. His small scale forged steel sculptures signal his artistic exploration of the transformative properties of the material to develop twisting, tapered, punched and ribboned forms.
Paley began his artistic career as a goldsmith in the mid-1960s, creating luxurious jewelry before deciding to pursue monumental sculptural works that ultimately had the potential to be experienced and have an effect on a greater number of viewers. Paley’s use of steel has been described as industrial poetry as evident in his large-scale sculptures Interlace and Star in The Mennello Museum’s Sculpture Garden, dedicated in memory of the Honorable Marilyn Logsdon Mennello, the museum’s visionary co-founder.
The most valuable thing that happens with the process is what you don’t expect and that becomes a gift for further exploration. – Albert Paley
In Homer’s Greek epic Iliad, Hector was a Trojan prince described as a skilled warrior, kind family man and a loyal friend. During battles between Greece and Troy of the Trojan War, which he was largely against, Hector fought to defend his people, eventually falling to Achilles who revengefully dragged Hector’s body behind his chariot.
As you approached Hector, you were very likely to have been drawn immediately into the deep, vibrant and flat red of the painted steel gathering. You may even have awed at the seemingly impossible bends and movement of bowed plates enveloping the sculpture.
Now, take your eyes upward toward the roughened and towering peaks of the highest steel rods, naturally following your gaze downward to contemplate the shape of the flattened semi-circular and perforated form. This motif repeats diagonally in a negative relationship from right to left. Follow the bends of steel this time in the opposing direction leading you around the entirety of the sculpture. Here you will find protruding, roughened lances, reduced and cut down. In contrast to those towering above, the pointed and perforated spears are jutting outward from the midline of the form, occupying the same space as your own body. It is near the base that the soaring forms echoed above become undone, swirling into a vortex of condensed pieces and fallen forms.