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Pentimento in PaperArlene Shechet

June 26, 2015

From the Dieu Donné papermaking studio in New York City, artist Arlene Shechet creates a series of cast paper reliefs. Most known for her ceramic sculptures, Shechet describes herself as being restless in her desire to investigate through various media.

“The thing about working with paper is the immediacy of that entire process,” says the artist. “I love seeing the thing and responding.” By layering sheets of paper over rubber molds, which are made in her ceramics studio, Shechet directly links the two practices. The molds transfer the texture of glazed clay, firebricks, and tool markings into the paper pulp.

“One other way that this is similar to working in ceramics is that it never looks as good as it looks when it’s wet,” says Shechet. “What I’m always pining for is the wet. It’s closer to the aliveness of the actual experience.” Finished paper works are shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston as part of Shechet’s twenty-year survey, All at Once (June 10 – September 7, 2015).

More information and credits


Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Ian Forster & Wesley Miller. Camera: Ian Forster, Rafael Salazar, Joel Shapiro & Ava Wiland. Sound: Wesley Miller, Roger Phenix & Ava Wiland. Editor: Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: Arlene Shechet & Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Special Thanks: Dieu Donné & ICA Boston. Theme Music: Peter Foley.

Art21 Exclusive is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; 21c Museum Hotel, and by individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Arlene Shechet

Arlene Shechet employs 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. Variously sensual, humorous, and elegant, her clay-based vessels evoke the tension between control and chaos, beauty and ugliness, perfection and imperfection. 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.

“The thing about working with paper is the immediacy of that entire process. I love seeing the thing and responding.”

Arlene Shechet

Works on Paper

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