The Sculptor Who'll Represent America in the Art World's Battle Royale

The Venice Biennale is kind of like the Olympics of art. Every other year, each country picks a single artist to represent it on the international stage—a weird but interesting way to quantify success in the art world. So who’s the most interesting artist in America right now?

Meet the 43-year-old sculptor Sarah Sze, whose complex installations are made from millions of fragments of found objects. Sze’s installation, which opened on Wednesday, is called Triple Point, and cascades from the roof of the American pavilion in a wave of bits and pieces and loops through the interior like a well-organized tornado. The piece, like many of Sze's science-inspired installations, has an unlikely connection to physics. It’s named after the thermodynamic concept of a temperature and pressure at which a substance exists at all three phases—gas, liquid, and solid—at the same time.

The title makes sense on multiple levels: the avalanche of sticks, stones, strings, sand, and countless other objects looks like it’s frozen in motion, suspended by some phenomenon of physics. Some sections of Triple Point have distinct subtitles referencing science, like Planetarium, an ad hoc solar system built from thousands of toys, lamps, and plastic fragments, or Eclipse, which looks like a science fair project explaining the concept of a celestial eclipse. Speaking to The New Yorker last year, she described her work as “inspired by scientific models, which are about the way a system behaves.”

How does Sze explain the deeper ideas at work in these intricate installations, which takes days to assemble and seconds to destroy? “Our navigation of large of amounts of information at a very fast pace is a very real experience,” she told The New York Times in a video interview at the Biennale. “And that effort—to try and locate ourselves—is part of our experience of daily life.” Big art fairs like this frequently lapse into pretense and hype—Sze’s intricate, thoughtful work is a refreshing break from that trend. Check it out if you’re in Venice until the Biennale ends in the fall. [Triple Point]

The Sculptor Who'll Represent America in the Art World's Battle Royale

Eclipse, 2013. Image courtesy of Sarah Sze, Courtesy of the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

The Sculptor Who'll Represent America in the Art World's Battle Royale

Pendulum, 2013. Image courtesy of Sarah Sze, Courtesy of the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

The Sculptor Who'll Represent America in the Art World's Battle Royale

Planetarium, 2013. Image courtesy of Sarah Sze, Courtesy of the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

The Sculptor Who'll Represent America in the Art World's Battle Royale

Planetarium, 2013. Image courtesy of Sarah Sze, Courtesy of the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

The Sculptor Who'll Represent America in the Art World's Battle Royale

Gleaner, 2013. Image courtesy of Sarah Sze, Courtesy of the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

The Sculptor Who'll Represent America in the Art World's Battle Royale

Gleaner, 2013. Image courtesy of Sarah Sze, Courtesy of the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.