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Interview: Albert Paley looks to the next phase of his artistic life

World-renowned artist Albert Paley, who is based in Rochester, is getting ready to make a major change in how he creates his towering metal sculptures and other works.

During a tour of his Lyell Avenue studio, Paley reminds his visitors to safeguard their eyesight and not stare at any welding going on in the cavernous metal fabrication shop. It is part of the leased space he has occupied for the last decade.

Although he’s in his mid-70s, Paley is still wrangling steel with torches and other tools as he bangs one of his artworks, a metal table, into shape. But even with the help of his metal fabrication crew, he’s ready to begin a new phase of his artistic life, one which began a half century ago.

The lease for his studio on Lyell Avenue is up at the end of the year, and Paley says he’s ready to outsource the fabrication process to other companies; that’s something he’s done occasionally over the years.

“At this point in time we’ve established good contacts with our outsourcing, so for me to maintain welders and that type of thing; so I’m going to focus, when the lease is up, I’m going to focus on design and project development and then actually outsource the fabrication,” Paley explained.

There are more than a dozen people working in his shop, but with this plan in the works for a while now, they have had time to find other jobs.

Paley wants to focus on the design and aesthetics part of his work, as he shows visitors around the part of his studio where there are cardboard models that are part of the artistic process before he actually gets around to the metalworking aspect of the sculptures.

Paley is best known for the large metal sculptures that include works like the 65 foot art work in front of the former Bausch and Lomb headquarters in downtown Rochester, or the series of  sculptures installed in the median along Park Avenue in Manhattan several years ago.

But he has worked in other media also, and continues to create art with various types of materials.

“By and large, what is always driven the studio is the aspect of design and aesthetics. At one time, I was a goldsmith and I work with you know, precious stones and gold and platinum and then you know, became involved in graphic work and drawing and printmaking,” Paley said.

Recently, Paley began to do some design work for a local rug maker, Oriental Rug Mart, after the owner saw Paley’s designs.

With more than 50 years of creating art, Albert Paley has, as you might imagine, accumulated a lot of material. That includes not only sculptures, but blueprints, sketches and other artifacts. Paley’s archive, by the way,  is valued at about $4.5 million.  

“Several pieces have gone to major museums, nationally and also internationally.  And part of that as well is the archive. The archive is documenting, not just everything I’ve done, but all my relationships with architects and museums, and right now, we’re looking to place that in an educational institution," Paley said.

Paley will continue not only to create new art, but to teach as well. He is an artist-in-residence at RIT and lectures there on a regular basis.

“The whole aspect of education and how the artwork facilitates that, leads me to exhibition venues. So we have exhibitions, not just sales exhibitions, but in museums so people can see things and hopefully it enriches their experience and understanding,” Paley said.

However his career evolves, Paley says he will continue to be based in Rochester, where the Philadelphia native has spent the majority of his professional life. He says he’s excited, for what lies ahead.  

An interview with Albert Paley, Videographer: Jason Milton, Editor: Denise Young.">

Video of Albert Paley working recently in his Lyell Avenue studio as he worked on the metal sculpture of a table." target="_blank">

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.