‘We Have So Much Illusion’: Watch Artist Sarah Sze Blend the Tactility of Organic Materials With the Intangibility of Images

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Sarah Sze: How We See the World." © Art21, Inc. 2016.

Artist Sarah Sze’s work is not easily categorized. It slips between sculpture and painting, harnessing light and shadows from projectors to shift a viewer’s perceptions between twinkling mirrors and organic materials.

At Storm King Art Center, in New York’s Hudson Valley, an exhibition inaugurating Sze’s new permanent sculpture on the grounds combines all of the disparate parts of her practice into one 50-foot installation, which acts as a portal from the gallery space to the vast outdoor landscape.

In the work, titled Fifth Season (2021), Sze’s fascination with entropy and fractured images are reflected in the array of materials, which include organic matter like soil and plants that are native to Storm King, along with photographs, paint, and prisms. Sze’s new permanent sculpture on the grounds, Fallen Sky, also considers the relationship between individuals and their environment. The work consists of stainless steel mirrored surfaces built into the hillside to reflect the world above, like a puddle of sky that is always changing.

Sarah Sze, <i>Fifth Season</i> (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Storm King Art Center.

Sarah Sze, Fifth Season (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Storm King Art Center.

In an exclusive interview with Art21, filmed as part of the Extended Play series in 2016, Sze describes her fascination with combining the sensory aspects of materials with the onslaught of digital images in contemporary culture.

“I’m really interested in this kind of pendulum swing—this desire to be able to feel, touch, and smell materials, and the other end of the pendulum being the reality that we have a distance from materials because we have so much time with images,” Sze told Art21. “We have so much illusion, but we don’t have touch, we don’t have taste, smell, we don’t have that Intimacy with images.”


Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s Art in the Twenty-First Century series, below. “Sarah Sze: Fallen Sky” is a new permanent installation at Storm King, and “Sarah Sze: Fifth Season” is on view at Storm King from June 26 through November 8, 2021. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series like New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org

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