Paley in Rochester: On the Local Path of the World’s Most Brilliant Sculptor

With a massive force of will, an indefatigable sense of celebration, and a monumental talent for manipulating metal into a new visual vocabulary, Albert Paley has risen from being America’s greatest blacksmith and goldsmith into the world’s most audacious and captivating sculptor.

As a builder and a craftsman, Paley knows that metal is a versatile medium. As such, he can make it flexible, agile, and stylistic. Always striving to resolve opposites, Paley works with what he calls “organic logic.” Although his work is simply the execution in heated steel, his finished products happen once. With a keen sense for ornateness, he uses the most standard materials to achieve an effect that is beyond imitation.

Arguably his masterpiece is the double gates at the State Capital in Albany, NY. Those 4 ton doors which consumed 36,000 hrs of manpower are stunning. So is his marvelous installation at the St. Louis Zoo, and his sprawling, often heroic Park Ave collection in NYC.

Here in Rochester, Paley’s work is prolifically showcased in a way that is unique to his creative story and process. From his soaring “Sentinel” at RIT to his museum benches and sculptures to his now legendary Construction Site (visible to all travelers on the 490 West)- Rochester holds a special place in Paley’s mythic portfolio.

In this series of photographs I sought to capture the genius of Paley in Rochester. There is nothing quite like one of his beams crashing upwards through corton steel hoops of bronze and yellow. Paley is just as much an industrial designer as he is an architect and sculptor. His work consistently seeks to emulate the human form while remaining faithful to the intuitive curves of the raw material under manufactured heat and spontaneous pressure.

Many of Paley’s Rochester installations possess this remarkable combination of logical fluidity and creative reason. I truly believe that Albert Paley is the supreme embodiment of the distinctive aspirations of this city. Rochester is, at its best, everything that Paley’s work represents: grasping, firm, decisive, inventive, energetic, and joyfully unscripted.

Photography by George Cassidy Payne

Bausch & Lomb Building

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Memorial Art Gallery

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Monumental is not a matter of size- Albert Paley

Out of the coal fire in the foundry and the sparks of the workshop, behind eyeglasses and ear protection, Albert Paley is busy doing something that has never been tried before. You can count on that. Like all true artists, he is busy creating a new sensory experience that has never occurred at any other time in the history of intelligent life. In the words of Paley himself, “It is not about creating an object. It is about creating a perspective.”

Memorial Art Gallery

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Paley’s resume shows off his broad gifts and interests as an artist. He was a world famous goldsmith for 15 years. He had an unsurpassed reputation as a blacksmith for 25 years. In 1975, he discovered steel work and embraced architecture.

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I have an aggressive personality. My work is not shy, or timid in any way.

– Albert Paley

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(Originally found in “Paley in the 21st Century.”)

He can make steel seem light. He can make iron dance. He turns what are seemingly unbending materials into glass like paintings that can never be duplicated. Every one of his finished products is an achievement in originality.

West Main Street Bridge

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The Hungerford Building

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85% of his projects are commissioned based. If not for his public installations the people of Rochester would not have access to his work. In Rochester, there are outstanding representations of his art on university campuses, in public courtyards, inside museum sculpture parks, and outside corporate offices.

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Digitally enhanced photograph. (Originally found in “Paley in the 21st Century.”)

The Strong Museum of Play

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