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Weekly Art Hit: ‘An Equal and Opposite Reaction’ by Sarah Sze

If you’re heading down to Seattle Center for Winterfest or for holiday shows like Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker, we thought you might like to know a bit about the artwork hanging overhead at McCaw Hall.

New York artist Sarah Sze created An Equal and Opposite Reaction for the grand lobby of McCaw Hall, home to Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet, in 2005. Each section of the suspended sculpture is constructed of hollow aluminum bars, filled with highly articulated fabricated parts and found objects, such as pushpins, rulers, zip ties, ladders, extension cords, industrial clamps, faux flowers and tape measures. The piece also contains kiln-formed and sandblasted laminated glass. At 30 feet tall, 20 feet in diameter at the top, and three feet in diameter at the bottom, the vortex structure of the work sweeps the viewer’s gaze up into the space above.

“I have created a sculpture titled An Equal or Opposite Reaction, a phrase borrowed from Newton’s Third Law of Motion.  Movement through the lobby determines the form on the sculpture in several ways,” Sze writes in her artist statement. “On the one hand, the sculpture itself explores structures that are losing mass, stripped down and revealing skeletal structures, building-like foundations, or underlying support mechanisms that lie beneath.  While on the other hand, they describe organic systems in growth, development, climbing and accumulating.  In this way the piece attempts to describe an entire organism still in the process of building or falling apart.”

The artwork was built by Seattle Opera Scenic Studios. Seattle Opera has one of the most innovative scene shops in the country, and Sze realized the importance of having her sculpture in the hands of a team with technological expertise and artistic acumen.

The artist also writes, “As an entrance piece to the opera and ballet, the piece is built as a welcoming monument filled with the fantasy, imagination and excitement of attending a performance. It is also a piece that is meant to be revisited and rediscovered over time, whether it be upon entering the performance in the early evening light and seeing it anew upon leaving the performance in the late evening light, or seeing it over the course of several visits to the stage over the years.”

An Equal and Opposite Reaction is part of the city’s permanent public art collection and was funded by Seattle Center 1% for Art funds. The project won a 2005 Public Art Year in Review award presented by Americans for the Arts.

IMAGES: Top: Photo by Bill Mohn. Bottom: Photo by Carson Jones Photography.

– Tamara Gill, Community Development & Outreach