The otherworldly, anthropomorphic works by the American sculptor Alma Allen have been steadily capturing imaginations since he first gained wider recognition at the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Known for his exquisite manipulations of materials like wood, stone, bronze, and recurring motifs such as body organs, the shapes of particles and other organic matter, the self-taught artist debuts a new body of work of an unprecedented scale at New York gallery Kasmin this week.
Comprising 12 large-scale sculptures, including a bronze that measures five metres at its highest point, the new pieces create a unique dialogue with the architecture of the gallery. Ranging from bronze sculptures displaying an unnerving malleability to the use of unexpected stones such as peach onyx, obsidian and green cantera, Allen’s works are psychologically charged, yet effortlessly expressive and reflect the artist’s inherent curiosity about the life of objects.
Of his work, Allen reflects, ‘I’m interested in describing a moment or an instant, not necessarily an archetypal thing. I like to capture things in-between that are still progressing beyond the moment I make them. I’m interested in that split second. They are a moment in the life of something rather than a symbol for something, they are more a symbol for an idea or feeling.’
‘They are often in the act of “doing”: the objects are in the act of perpetrating something, they are going away, or leaving or interacting with something invisible, or squishing,’ he adds. ‘Even though they are static as objects, they are not static in my mind. A block of stone I carve is sagging or tipping or rocking. Almost always something is interacting on them that is not visible. In my mind, they are part of a much larger universe.’
Adding to the mystery and mysticism of his work, Allen, who moved from Joshua Tree to his current base in Mexico City, handpicks his materials from quarries or forges them from landscapes in the area surrounding his studio. He has also constructed a bronze foundry within his studio in Tepoztlán, which enables him to complete works on-site.
Because of repeated injuries sustained after years of hand-carving, he now also deploys a self-built robotic device to create the larger works. Initially creating finger-scale maquettes before translating them into the final piece, Allen imbues his sculptures with a captivating softness, despite their size and weight. It’s this inscrutable fusion of handcraft and technology that undoubtedly makes the new work sing.
‘Alma Allen’, 23 January – 4 March, Kasmin. kasmingallery.com (opens in new tab)
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Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.
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