Sze’s site-specific installations transform the iconic Guggenheim architecture into a tool for timekeeping and a meditation on the multitude of ways that we mark and experience the passage of time.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents a solo exhibition of Sarah Sze (b. 1969, Boston) featuring a series of site-specific installations by the acclaimed New York–based artist. Sarah Sze: Timelapse unravels a trail of discovery through multiple spaces of the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright building, from the exterior of the museum to the sixth level of the rotunda and the adjacent tower level gallery. The exhibition explores Sze’s ongoing reflection on how our experience of time and place is continuously reshaped in relationship to the constant stream of objects, images, and information in today’s digitally and materially saturated world.
Sze creates across multiple mediums employing painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, video, and installation. She is well known for her intricate constructions using a myriad of both fabricated and found objects and images. Whether an intimately scaled sculpture or a large, permanent public commission, her works possess a generative quality—as though in a cycle of growth and decay—and dynamically engage with the spaces they occupy.
Visitors and passersby first encounter Sarah Sze: Timelapse outside the museum where the presentation spills into the public sphere. At street level an uninterrupted flow of images trace the contours of the building’s exterior, while a projection on the rotunda’s circular facade mirrors in real time the cycle of the moon over the course of the exhibition. In Sze’s reimagination, the Guggenheim’s iconic, UNESCO World Heritage architecture becomes a public timekeeper in a reminder that timelines are built through shared experience and memory. In the words of the artist, “Like the collective efforts used by humans over centuries to communally mark time, to measure and mark it in physical form—ranging from Jantar Mantar, to the Prime Meridian line, to ubiquitous minarets, clock towers, and animated or astronomical clocks around the world—the museum building becomes a site to explore the idea of a public clock, and an experiment in collective timekeeping that all in the city can experience.”
Inside the museum, quiet gestures, such as a single pendulum hovering above the fountain on the rotunda floor and a small sculptural installation tucked into an interstitial space in front of the freight elevator, demonstrate Sze’s distinct engagement with unexpected spaces. As visitors ascend to the sixth, uppermost level of the rotunda, they enter an immersive environment: a panoramic sequence of eight bays occupied by a new series of works comprising painting, sculpture, video, drawing, and sound. These are connected by a river of videos—seen earlier on the building’s street-level facade—which slowly travels up the spiral expanse of the building’s interior, creating a horizon line of moving images. As it travels across, above, and behind the works on view, visitors are absorbed into a generative experience, continually re-orienting themselves temporally and spatially.
Bookending the new installation on Rotunda Level 6 are two key works from the Guggenheim’s collection, both on view for the first time in New York. The installation begins with Sze’s first artwork to incorporate video, Untitled (Media Lab) (1998), which captures her signature ability to fuse found objects and video. The exhibition continues into Tower Level 7, culminating in the artist’s monumental work Timekeeper (2016). Timekeeper is a multisensory, multimedia installation that has at its center an artist’s desk filled with quotidian objects. An overflow of still and moving images are projected in cascades from the desk onto the surrounding walls: a bird in flight, fire burning in a trash can, a child sleeping, a hand drawing a line, static noise on a screen. Digital clocks indicating the actual time from different zones around the world are also embedded within, underscoring how the ubiquitous nature of technology has reframed our understanding of time and place. Time, as it is shown unfolding in the ensemble of works gathered for this exhibition, is a collection of lived and remembered experiences. Sarah Sze: Timelapse is, as Sze puts it, “a contemplation on how we mark time and how time marks us.”
The exhibition will be accompanied by a special, 152-page publication with contributions by curator Kyung An and writers Hilton Als and Molly Nesbit. Conceived in close collaboration with the artist’s studio and designed by Neil Donnelly, it will include installation views from the exhibition, a testament to Sze’s singular approach to materials and space.
Sarah Sze: Timelapse is organized by Kyung An, Associate Curator, Asian Art and was initiated and contributed to by Nancy Spector, former Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator.