Visitors to museums and galleries are presented with finished, polished works of art. Less often do they see the work and planning that go into each finished piece. The Grey Art Gallery’s current exhibition, “Alice Aycock Drawings: Some Stories Are Worth Repeating,” offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings and imaginative mind of acclaimed artist and sculptor Alice Aycock.
The exhibition, which opened on April 23, features the artist’s detailed drawings, five 3-D models, a film and several photographs that document the developmental stages of her work. On display are 48 of Aycock’s pieces from 1971 to 1984, and 55 works from 1984 to the present are currently being showcased at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, N.Y.
“I divided it at 1984 because there are major shifts in both style and subject at that point,” said Jonathan Fineberg, the exhibition’s curator and professor of art history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “While the first half is very conceptual, architectural, black and white, the second half is a startlingly different-looking show.”
After coming to New York in 1968, Aycock quickly gained recognition in the 1970s art scene. Her unique and highly multi-disciplinary style is inspired by science, architecture and technology, but also has elements of fantasy, imagination and emotion. Many of her large-scale sculptures require complex math and engineering skills, yet her art maintains a quality of playfulness.
“She has a lot of whimsy in her work,” said Lynn Gumpert, director of the Grey Art Gallery. “But that’s countered sometimes by that deadpan architectural style.”
Many of her large-scale sculptures, which are located all over the world in outdoor and indoor locations, are functional and interactive. In 1972 Aycock created “Maze,” an underground maze, on a farm in Pennsylvania. The piece allows viewers to step into the art and feel the fear and panic she hoped to evoke.
“She really wants to engage the viewers and get them to respond viscerally, through their body as well as their intellect,” Gumpert said.
Aycock was also inspired by writing and philosophy. Later in her career she began writing, and her current exhibition highlights the relationship between her art and her stories.
“Although she is best known for being a sculptor, the drawings are essential,” Gumpert said. “She wrote somewhere in her writing that ‘some stories are worth repeating,’ and because stories were such an important part, and we’re highlighting that in this exhibition, we thought it worked well.”
Stern freshman Priyanka Athavale said the exhibit was different than anything she’s ever seen before.
“I liked that we are able to see the work behind the finished product since it really shows the thought process and effort behind the art,” Athavale said.
“Alice Aycock Drawings: Some Stories Are Worth Repeating” will be on display at the Grey Art Gallery until July 13. The second part of the exhibition is on display at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, N.Y., until July 13.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 29 print edition. Deeksha Mehta is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]