Arlene Shechet - profile

Arlene Shechet

February 27, 2015

Arlene Shechet is a New York-based artist, known for her sculptures that defy categotization. Some are figurative, some are architectural, and others resemble melting vessels or growing biological forms, always looking off balance or on the verge of collapse.

Born in 1951 in New York, Arlene Shechet received her BA from New York University and her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design.

Arlene Shechet makes ceramic objects that live in the midst of skill and humor. They are abstract aggregations of shapes that include both organic and geometric components. Within these parameters, the work is exceptionally diverse. One underlying commonality is that Shechet works with clay that is shaped, sometimes glazed, and then fired. Their sheer hybridity makes them perplexing and compelling. Shechet’s forms are askew, off-kilter, and unbalanced looking characters that might, at any moment, succumb to animation or simply flop down, no longer able to sustain their unlikely pose. Employing an experimental approach to ceramic sculpture, she tests the limits of gravity, color, and texture by pushing against the boundary of classical techniques, sometimes fusing her kiln-fired creations with complex plinths formed of wood, steel, and concrete.

In the artist's own words ‘the things that I build...grow over months because I might be able to add only one inch of material in a day. I'm extending forms and I'm challenging balance and gravity in such a way that they always want to collapse or tip over...In fact, often things do collapse or fall over, and many don't make it, but I love working on that precarious edge. For me, that has obvious emotional, psychological, and philosophical meaning.’

In a reciprocal relationship to her sculpture practice, the ‘drawings’ reflect Shechet's physical sculpture-making process, made entirely with pigmented, liquid paper. Unique wall-hanging reliefs, they are multi-dimensional casts of objects on Shechet's studio table that defy the boundaries normally associated with paper-based works.

Fascinated by the material’s history, Shechet recently completed a residency at the renowned Meissen Porcelain Manufactory. The resulting body of work - including mash-ups of functional objects and whimsical figurines - show an artist at the top of her form, recasting centuries old traditions into her own mold.

Considering herself an installation artist who happens to make objects, Shechet focuses intently on ensuring that the display, sight lines, and relationships of the objects in her exhibitions change with every view while maintaining formal equilibrium.

She has received numerous awards including a John S. Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, an Anonymous Was A Woman Artist Award, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant, and an American Arts and Letters Award for Art. Her work is in public collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN.

Arlene Shechet lives and works in New York City and Woodstock, New York.