A striking new public sculpture in Boynton Beach titled Cavalcade might more aptly be called Celebration. Despite its massive dimensions—40 feet tall, 8.5 tons—this joyous explosion of colorful steel communicates a vibrant sense of movement. “Wind is invisible, and gravity is invisible,” says Albert Paley, the artist behind the work. “But we respond to both wind and gravity in visceral ways, so the sculpture has a sense of balance and repositioning.”
Commissioned by the developers of 500 Ocean, a residential and mixed-use project, Cavalcade stands in the plaza at the corner of Federal Highway and E. Ocean Avenue, greeting visitors and residents alike. The largest public art sculpture in the county, the piece was unveiled in October as part of the city’s Art in Public Places program, followed by five additional Paley sculptures along the Avenue of the Arts. While Cavalcade is permanent, the other works (which are available for purchase) are on loan as part of a year-long exhibition called Albert on the Avenue.
It’s a major accomplishment for Palm Beach County, to say the least. Paley, 73, has been one of America’s foremost metal sculptors for decades. Based in Rochester, New York, the artist currently has about 60 site-specific works across the United States, more in Europe and Asia, and generally executes three major pieces a year. While he has done private commissions, it’s his public pieces that have defined his career. His breakthrough commission was designing the iron portal gates for the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington D.C. in the 1970s; some of his other notable works include the portal gates for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and 13 sculptures on Park Avenue in New York in 2013.
When creating his large-scale public sculptures, Paley first considers the immediate environment. Of course, the landscape comes into play: “Florida is about palm trees, the starkness of the light, the dramatic contrasts,” he says. “That is why Cavalcade is several colors—because the Florida light has a tendency to dissolve so much color.” But more than that, it’s a synergy between the environment and the sculpture he strives for. “If a work of art doesn’t engage with its setting, it doesn’t function,” he says. “In a public arena, you want to create a sense of place, of memory, and of identity to that place… There’s a long vista as you drive up to Cavalcade. You see the form, and then you get closer. It’s the gateway to the center of the city—it defines the area.”
Learn more about the Albert on the Avenue installation and tour at boyntonbeacharts.org.