Like super twisters, spinning tops, and crashing waves, Alice Aycock’s forthcoming public sculptures will seem to race along a Midtown stretch of Park Avenue, New York’s symbolic canyon of money and power and aspiration. “I see that part of Park Avenue as a real cauldron of activity—of intense intellectual activity, competitive activity,” says Aycock, who was recently inducted into the National Academy. “It is a visualization of that invisible energy—mental, kinetic—all that hot air.” Titled “Park Avenue Paper Chase,” the series of seven large works is scheduled to be unveiled the first week of March.
Known for her monumental, site-specific sculptures that conflate aspects of architecture, machinery, and natural phenomena, Aycock has long been fascinated by wave movements and whirlpool formations. “I was always looking for structural patterns that were alternatives to right angles and the grid and that type of organizational system,” the 67-year-old artist says. She remembers her father, a builder in the hydroelectric industry, taking her to the beach during storms to watch the waves and joyously playing the piano in the basement as a hurricane blew through the open windows of her childhood home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. As devastating weather events have become more frequent, Aycock has plumbed the compositional forces of such energy.
For her new series, Aycock began with diagrams of cyclones, tornadoes, and origami shapes that she would twist, crush, elongate, and multiply on the computer to create a kind of random disorder. Then she would analyze the intersections of her arrangements to determine if they could be built with aluminum sheets. The largest of the sculptures, at 70 feet long and 12 feet high, required more than 500 individual pieces of cut and curved metal, which were welded together in a seemingly weightless flurry.
“To me, if these things work, it will be like stop-motion,” Aycock says. “As if it was twirling, and then—stop. Just at that instant, you’ve caught it.”
A version of this story originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 21 under the title “Spring Forecast: Twisters.”