Art is a timekeeper; it endows breath into materials. It is a traveling message between humans across centuries.
Sarah Sze gleans objects and images from worlds both physical and digital, assembling them into complex multimedia works that shift scale between microscopic observation and macroscopic perspective on the infinite. A peerless bricoleur, Sze moves with a light touch across proliferating media. Her dynamic, generative body of work spans sculpture, painting, drawing, printmaking, video, and installation while always addressing the precarious nature of materiality and grappling with matters of entropy and temporality.
Born in Boston, Sze earned a BA from Yale University in 1991 and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York, in 1997. While still in graduate school, she challenged the very nature of sculpture, at MoMA PS1 in New York, by burrowing into the walls of the building, creating sculptural portals and crafting ecosystems that radically transformed the host architecture. A year later, for her first solo institutional exhibition, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, she presented Many a Slip (1999), an immersive installation sprawling through several rooms in which flickering projections were scattered among complex assemblages of everyday objects. This marked Sze’s first foray into video, which has since become a central medium of her installations. Citing the Russian Constructivist notion of the “kiosk” as a key inspiration, she conceived subsequent installations as portable stations for the interchange of images and the exchange of information. Sze’s work was included in the 48th Biennale di Venezia and the Carnegie International in 1999; the Whitney Biennial in 2000; and the Bienal de São Paulo in 2002. She was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003.
Throughout her oeuvre, Sze embraces dichotomies—image and object, painting and sculpture—and allows each to inform the other. In Still Life with Landscape (Model for a Habitat), a 2012 commission for the High Line in New York, she translated a single-point perspective line drawing into a three-dimensional sculpture as a habitat for native bird species that both camouflaged and underscored the in situ urban and natural environment. In 2013 Sze represented the United States at the 55th Biennale di Venezia with a total takeover of the American Pavilion. The title of the project, Triple Point, refers to the conditions at which water can be at once aqueous, gaseous, and solid and reflects Sze’s driving concern to create work that exists in many states at once. Two years later, for the subsequent Biennale, she took an opposite tack, creating a series of subtle interventions in a remote and abandoned walled garden that attested to her interest in that which is dismantled, liminal, and freed from its moorings. In 2017 a permanent tiled mural of a drawing titled Blueprint for a Landscape was unveiled at the 96th Street station of the Second Avenue subway in Manhattan, spanning its four entrances and entire block-long mezzanine.
Since 2018 Sze has returned to the foundations of painting with spirited investigations of the pictorial plane and a reignited interest in the role of the image in an era of image saturation. Adapting her processes of sculptural accumulation to a two-dimensional format, she has developed a process whereby she begins with a seed image as the foundation and then layers paint and collage materials in a generative and recursive process, in which the decisions she makes in one composition resonate in connected visual constellations that either persist or decay with time’s passage. She states, “In the age of the image, a painting is a sculpture. A sculpture is a marker in time.” In these detailed, dynamic, and highly colorful and textural paintings, Sze filters her distinctive visual language through diverse materials and mediums. With both force and delicacy, her art negotiates the line between order and chaos, evoking moments of flux and precariousness through feats of sheer materiality.
Shorter Than the Day
Sarah Sze writes on a recent collage.
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2020
The Summer 2020 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Joan Jonas’s Mirror Piece 1 (1969) on its cover.
Sarah Sze: Anything Times Zero Is Zero
Hear Sarah Sze speak about her most recent work, including the panel painting Picture Perfect (Times Zero) and the multimedia installation Plein Air (Times Zero) (both 2020). Discussing the relationship between painting and sculpture in her practice, she explains how she creates structure and its inverse, instability, in her layering of images, putting the viewer in the position of active discovery.
Five Films: Sarah Sze
Sarah Sze writes about five films that live as richly evocative images in her visual memory.
Sarah Sze: Infinite Generation
Louise Neri talks with Sarah Sze about the new primacy of the image in her explorations between and across mediums. They spoke on the occasion of an exhibition of Sze’s work at Gagosian, Rome, comprising collaged panel paintings, a large-scale video installation, and an outdoor sculpture fashioned from a natural boulder.
Sarah Sze: Art That Explores Time and Memory
Join Sarah Sze as she talks about the questions that drive her work. She describes creating immersive experiences that blur the lines between time, memory, and space—and between art and life.
Frieze Sculpture New York: An Interview with Brett Littman
The inaugural presentation of Frieze Sculpture New York at Rockefeller Center opened on April 25, 2019. Before the opening, Brett Littman, the director of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum and the curator of this exhibition, told Wyatt Allgeier about his vision for the project and detailed the artworks included.
Work in Progress
Sarah Sze: In the Studio
Join Sarah Sze in her studio as she prepares for an exhibition of new work in Rome.
Art Basel Parcours 2021
September 20–26, 2021, 7pm–1am daily
Rheinsprung 9, Basel
Sarah Sze’s first large-scale outdoor video work will be a key feature of this year’s Art Basel Parcours, which engages the public and fairgoers by placing site-specific sculptures, interventions, and performances in the city’s historic center.
Timepiece (2021) by night transforms the facade of a four-story building at the top of the historic Rheinsprung into a plume of images seemingly let loose from their frame. A multitude of randomly coded video sequences—a moon, a card trick, an electrical storm, and more—appears at dusk, rising, pixelating, glitching, and eventually dispersing.
Sarah Sze, Timepiece (2021), installation view, Rheinsprung 9, Basel © Sarah Sze. Photo: Julien Gremaud
Night Into Day
Sarah Sze’s exhibition Night Into Day opened at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, during the COVID-19 pandemic but was later closed due to lockdown restrictions in France. Produced on the occasion of the Fondation’s reopening, this video explores the various programming conceived to allow viewers to experience the exhibition while it was closed to the public, including a conversation between Sze, Anselm Kiefer, and philosopher Emanuele Coccia; a walk-through of the exhibition with the artist and philosopher Bruno Latour; and a livestreamed performance staged within the installation by Sze’s longtime friend, choreographer and dancer Trajal Harrell.
Still from “Sarah Sze: Night Into Day”
Art Basel Hong Kong 2021
May 21–23, 2021, booth 1d30
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel Hong Kong with a presentation of modern and contemporary painting and sculpture by gallery artists. New paintings by Georg Baselitz, Alex Israel, Ed Ruscha, and Sarah Sze are featured alongside exceptional works in a range of mediums by Louise Bonnet, Theaster Gates, Henry Moore, Nam June Paik, and others, uncovering formal and conceptual innovations and associations that span genres and aesthetic approaches.
Georg Baselitz, Noch ein Orangenesser, 2020 © Georg Baselitz
Through October 2021
Tate Modern, London
Sarah Sze’s work Seamless (1999) is on display in a room on the fourth floor of the Boiler House at Tate Modern, paired with a work by Piet Mondrian.
Sarah Sze, Seamless, 1999 (detail) © Sarah Sze
Through November 8, 2021
Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, New York
To accompany Fallen Sky (2021), Sarah Sze’s new permanent outdoor sculptural commission at Storm King, the artist has created an immersive installation that spans fifty feet in length, creating a portal through the gallery that houses it. The work, Fifth Season (2021), considers landscape as a timeless preoccupation of artists but refuses the impulse to present the natural world as comforting or coherent, instead depicting it as fragile and in flux.
Sarah Sze, Fifth Season, 2021, installation view, Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, New York © Sarah Sze
Sarah Sze in
Through January 9, 2022
ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany
This exhibition invites visitors to engage with the critical situation of the earth in a novel and diverse way and to explore new modes of coexistence between all forms of life. In order to remedy the generally prevailing disorientation and dissension in society, politics, and ecology with regard to the changing state of the planet, the exhibition project sets up an imaginary cartography, considering the earth as a network of “critical zones.” Work by Sarah Sze is included.
Sarah Sze, Flash Point (Timekeeper), 2018 © Sarah Sze. Photo: Matteo D’Eletto, M3 Studio
Sarah Sze in
On the Basis of Art: 150 Years of Women at Yale
Through January 9, 2022
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut
On the Basis of Art celebrates the achievements of women artists who have graduated from Yale University. Presented on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Yale College and the 150th anniversary of the first women students at the University, who came to study at the Yale School of the Fine Arts when it opened in 1869—the exhibition features works drawn entirely from the Yale University Art Gallery’s collection. The exhibition title refers to a phrase in Title IX, the landmark 1972 US federal law declaring that no one in an education program receiving federal financial assistance could be discriminated against “on the basis of sex.” Work by Sarah Sze is included.
Sarah Sze, Mirror with Landscape Leaning (Fragment Series), 2015, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut © Sarah Sze