Professor Sarah Sze Shows Dynamic Multimedia Works in New York, Milan, Athens

Emily Johnson
September 01, 2022

Professor of Visual Arts Sarah Sze is closing out 2022 with a triumphant trio of shows, currently exhibiting her work in New York and Milan, and upcoming in Athens.

At New York’s Nahmad Contemporary—a gallery dedicated to the presentation of select contemporary artists and innovative, historically focused exhibitions—Sze’s work is featured in The Painter’s New Tools, curated by Eleanor Cayre and Dean Kissick.

“Your experience of the world is mediated by images, and increasingly takes place within the pictorial space of those images,” Cayre and Kissick say in the press release for The Painters New Tools. “This has changed the way to think about painting: How can you make a distinct image in the face of this glut of images, this constant distraction, and is that even important? What are the painter’s new tools, and what can be done with them?”

Sze, renowned for her chimerical, intricate multimedia works, spanning painting, print-making, bricolage, and sculpture, is at home among artists playing at the margins of painting.

Sarah Sze, 'Tracing Fallen Sky,' 2020 (detail) © Sarah Sze. Photo: Thibaul Voisin

Her piece, “The Look of Things” (oil paint, acrylic paint, archival paper, acrylic polymers, ink, diabond, aluminum, and wood, 2021) is on view as part of the group exhibition. It’s a radial, colorful work, striated by vertical blue lines, which bring a compositional order to the otherwise joyful chaos spinning out over a hazy pastel background. Its subtle geometries are like code underwriting the multiplicity of the internet, that indomitable image parade. Flourishes of leaves appear, torn paper, and tiny schools of boxes which could be screens. There are collaged gesticulating hands wandering in orbit.

"In the age of the image, a painting is a sculpture, and it becomes even more of an incredibly lush experience,” Sze says in her show notes. The Painter’s New Tools is on view until September 4, 2022.

In Milan, Sze presents an installation work as part of Mondo Reale, Triennale Milano’s 23rd International Exhibition. Curated by Hervé Chandès, Directeur général artistique of the Fondation Cartier, Mondo Reale is a reaction to the idea of mystery and the unknown here on earth, to “focus on the wonders that inhabit our planet and all the secrets beneath its inscrutable perfection.”

The monumental Tracing Fallen Sky (dimensions variable, Mixed media, stainless steel, salt, archival pigment prints, video projector, pendulum, 2020) is Sze’s contribution.

On the gallery floor, highly polished silver fragments form a crumbling planetary outline, flowing like mercury. Its silhouette has been captured in a layer of salt, slightly to the side, a shadow that intersects it. A small pendulum oscillates irregularly above, a strange and sprightly satellite. Video is projected onto the installation from above, tracing light and color onto the surface. Around the perimeter is a precisely formed assemblage of everyday objects and lines of paint, arrayed like lace—rolls of tape, thread, boxes of electronic products, a plastic bottle of water. Sze’s use of such everyday ephemera is legendary, and she plays with materiality and the concept of sculpture just as she manipulates paint and print. 

Sze is also opening a solo exhibition in Greece, at Gagosian Athens from September 8, 2022 to October 20, 2022.

Featuring new and recent works, the show presents the full, tremendous range of mediums at Sze’s command, across painting and sculpture, installation and video.

From the elegant, frenzied blue horizon that is The Night Sky is Dark Despite the Vast Number of Stars in the Universe (40 x 50 x 2 inches, oil paint, acrylic paint, archival paper, acrylic polymers, ink, diabond, aluminum, and wood, 2022), or further silver expressions from the Fallen Sky Series, a solo show of Sze’s prodigious work is the ideal place to experience the extent of her material visioning.