Timelapse | Sarah Sze


My roster of favorite artists includes Sarah Sze somewhere near the top. The first piece of hers I remember seeing was Strange Attractor installed for the 2000 Whitney Biennial in a window of the Breuer building. Since then I’ve tried to visit as many of her installations as I could, because that’s the only way to really experience her work.

Timelapse is Sze and her team’s first site-specific installation at NYC’s Guggenheim Museum. The exhibition stretches across the exterior facade and occupies the upper levels of the interior rotunda. If you’re not familiar with Sze’s work, it can best be summed up as the expression of ideas through obsessively disordered order. What immediately drew me to appreciate Sze’s work is the recontextualized use of common objects and materials that create a visual experience. In some cases her work looks like the results of a crash between home center, grocery store and Ikea delivery trucks, the contents of which scatter into some beautifully composed pile.

As you might suspect from the title, Timelapse is Sze commentary on how we mark time and contemporary technology’s influence on collecting memories. We archive experiences in timelines that string their way around the globe. The installation has lots of references to literal connecting threads and loops of projected imagery that randomly pan across the facade and interior space.

As I like to focus on aesthetics here, let’s just look at all the masterful applications and control of shapes, color, scale and balance. As chaotic as the installation looks, Sze sticks to a pretty tight color palette and uses most every object as is. So much of this installation looks like it’s on the edge of falling apart. There’s a real tension between perfection and chaos. Some objects are aligned to millimeter perfection, others seemingly hastily piled or randomly scattered. There’s equal amounts of extremes and that balance makes it hard not to spend time trying to take everything in.

In the design world, process is often hidden. In Sze’s work however, every clamp, scrap of wood and piece of tape is visible. Even the source packaging, paint containers shipping boxes and caulking guns are woven into the final work. There’s almost a feedback loop of everything that makes the work, is the work.

Photos and Text: Dave Pinter