Newark, New Jersey

By Goodman, Jonathan | Sculpture, September 2016 | Go to article overview

Newark, New Jersey


Goodman, Jonathan, Sculpture


Pat Lay

Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art

Pat Lay, who retired not long ago from the MFA program that she founded at Montclair State University, recently mounted a major retrospective at Aljira, a prominent nonprofit space in downtown Newark. Curated by Lilly Wei, the show covered decades of work, from late-'60s clay pieces to works made as recently as 2015. There was a good mix of threedimensional and two-dimensional work, including archival prints whose exquisite symmetry is constructed from computer-parts imagery, but Lay has acknowledged that the true turn of her work is sculptural. The show included a fine array of threedimensional objects, ranging from a tile-work installation influenced by Noguchi to African-inspired totems, to gender-ambiguous cyborg heads, from whose crowns issue Medusalike wires with variously colored wrappings. Lay's art is endlessly various, which indicates a curious cast of mind. She combines the very old with the very new in ways that push contemporary art forward, toward a statement that covers art history as well as contemporary sensibilities.

An untitled 1975 work, shown in the Whitney Biennial that same year, recalls Noguchi's sunken garden at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale. Like Noguchi's garden, Lay 's (smaller) installation has images on top of a flat surface-in this case, a plane made of ceramic tile. A circle of brown cloth, a pyramid, and a translucent box embellish the exterior, complicating the plainness of the surface. …

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