In celebration of the recently commissioned monumental sculpture “Devil Whirls” by Alice Aycock, the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio explores five decades of work by the American sculptor and installation artist in the exhibition “Alice Aycock: Moving Through Time.” On view September 7 through November 26, 2023, the exhibition showcases Aycock’s works on paper that complement and provide insight into the creative process behind the artist’s iconic installations.
First receiving significant recognition in the 1970s, Aycock (b. 1946) and her innovative work garnered attention as part of the land art movement. Much of her work is rooted in science, using logic, imagination and engineering to capture the power of energy and motion in balance.
“Devil Whirls,” Aycock’s powder-coated aluminum sculpture that stands over 20 feet tall, greets visitors as they arrive through the Museum’s North New Braunfels Avenue entrance. According to the artist, “Devil Whirls” and the “Turbulence Series” it is part of invokes random, haphazard energy and uses industrial aluminum to capture movement and the expressed emotion in cyclonic storms or tornadoes.
The sculpture was commissioned by the McNay in alignment with their strategic plan to expand the collection in two ways — increasing sculpture on the grounds and outdoor artworks by women artists. Aycock visited the McNay in summer 2022 to determine a location for the commission to enhance the recently updated campus. Sited among a group of trees, the sculpture’s white metal swirls contrast the surrounding landscape.
One of Aycock’s earliest and most influential sculptures is examined in the exhibition. “Moving Through Time” displays all 10 studies for “Maze” (1972). Originally sited at a farm near New Kingston, Pennsylvania, “Maze” is a six-foot tall 12-sided wooden structure that consists of five concentric dodecagonal rings broken by 19 points of entry and 17 barriers.
The 2018 International Sculpture Center Lifetime Achievement award-winning artist has created numerous large metal sculptures installed around the world. Included in the exhibition is a 1992 silkscreen print “Hoodo (Laura) (1981)”, depicting Aycock’s enormous sculpture constructed with Plexiglass, glass, steel, moving parts and neon light from the series “How to Catch and Manufacture Ghosts: Vertical and Horizontal Cross-Sections of the Ether Wind.”
More recent works in the exhibition include the 2019 inkjet print and hand-painted watercolor on paper “Darkness Visible 2019: #7 Texas Twister.”
“Alice Aycock: Moving Through Time” is organized for the McNay Art Museum by Lyle W. Williams, the Museum’s curator of prints and drawings, curator of modern art.
“Merging ideas about sculpture, architecture, science and the hidden forces of nature, Alice Aycock’s work will serve as a source of inspiration for Museum visitors,” Williams said. “We hope this exhibition will encourage new ways of viewing the world and offer deeper engagement with ‘Devil Whirls,’ an exciting addition to the McNay collection.”
The McNay’s commission of “Devil Whirls” was made possible through the generous support of the Russell Hill Rogers Fund for the Arts. With a long history of investing in acquisitions, the Russell Hill Rogers Fund for the Arts has facilitated the growth of the McNay’s collection throughout the 25-acre campus by supporting important outdoor works by Willie Cole, Luis Jiménez, Alexander Liberman, George Rickey and Kiki Smith, among others.
About the Artist
Alice Aycock has exhibited in major museums and galleries nationally as well as in Europe and Japan. Her works can be found in numerous collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Sheldon Museum of Art, Storm King Art Center, the Louis Vuitton Foundation and the Sprengel Museum in Hanover, Germany. She has exhibited at the Venice Biennale, Documenta VI and VIII and the Whitney Biennial.
Aycock received a Bachelor of Arts from Douglass College and a Master of Arts from Hunter College. She was represented by the John Weber Gallery in New York City from 1976 through 2001 and is currently represented by Marlborough Gallery, New York and Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin.
She has lived and worked in New York City since 1968.