Albert Paley (b. 1944)
Albert Paley is an American jewelry designer and sculptor whose work defies strict categorization as either art or craft, instead embracing the finer aspects of both disciplines.
Albert Paley was born in Philadelphia in 1944 to lower middle class parents. Despite showing a natural inclination towards the arts, Paley held misgivings about pursuing a career as an artist. He believed the only way to earn a steady income in that arts was to find work in advertising - a proposition he found distasteful.
It was Albert Paley’s girlfriend, a student at the Tyler School of Art, who convinced him otherwise. A single Saturday spent touring the campus and Paley was sold; he enrolled at the Tyler School of Arts with hardly enough money for a single semester’s tuition.
Albert Paley began taking classes in jewelry making and sculpture during his sophomore year and soon found himself enthralled with both crafts. Paley graduated from the Tyler School of Arts in 1969 with a Master in Fine Arts
Albert Paley began his professional career in the arts as a jeweler. Putting into practice the lesson he learned at the Tyler School of Art, Paley created works of wearable art that merged the sinuous and organic lines of European Art Nouveau with the visual weight of metalwork, creating jewelry that was equal parts elegant and brutal.
In 1969, Albert Paley produced his first piece of ironwork; a forged candlestick. While modest in comparison to his later creations, this foray into metalworking sparked a renewed interest in the craft. Later that year, Paley accepted a position teaching goldsmithing at the Rochester Institute of Technology, but continued to pursue his sculptural aspirations on the side. In 1972, Paley was commissioned to produce the Portal Gates at the Smithsonian Institute’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. Completed in 1973 and installed in 1976, these monumental steel, bronze and copper doors earned Paley national recognition as a metalsmith of truly unique vision.
Albert Paley’s sculptures don’t simply occupy space; they command it. Paley possesses a rare ability to transform iron from a lifeless and unyielding metal into a moving, almost liquid, element. In contrast to the rigid nature of his medium, Albert Paley’s works often sport flowering and blossoming forms, reflecting Paley’s deep appreciation for Art Nouveau and creating a visual juxtapose that commands the observer’s curiosity and admiration in equal measure. Despite the seemingly spontaneous and organic nature of his work, Paley is a consummate draftsman, envisioning the majority of his creations on paper before stepping to the forge.
The market for works by Albert Paley is exceptionally strong, with buyers across American collecting everything from jewelry and candlesticks to floor lamps and coffee tables. Paley is the author of important, exceptional installations around the country including the Clay Center Sculpture at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in West Virginia and the Animals Always installation at the St. Louis Zoo. Works by Paley are held in the permanent collections of several museums including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.