Gyöngy Laky (b.Budapest 1944), San Francisco sculptor, is a past recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant, Laky's work is in a number of permanent museum collections. She created a large work commissioned by the Federal Art-in-Architecture Program for the Social Security Administration Building in Richmond, CA, and another for the City Council Chambers in Sacramento, CA. She exhibits her work nationally and internationally (solo exhibitions in England, Denmark, Hungary and Spain). Her most recent solo exhibition was in Sacramento CA September 2012. In 2002-03, she was one of a team of three to develop a comprehensive Arts Master Plan for the new state-of-the-art, Federal Food and Drug Administration campus being built in Maryland. In 2003 "Portfolio Series: Gyöngy Laky," was published by Telos Arts Publishing in England and the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, released her oral history that year. Her art has appeared in numerous books, magazines and catalogs in the US and abroad including Type Addicted—The new trend of A to Z typo-graphics (Victionary, Hong Kong) 2007 and 3D Typography (Mark Batty Publisher's, New York) 2010. April 2008, the New York Times Magazine commissioned her to create titles for its environmental issue (the titles received an award from the Type Directors Club). The Smithsonian Institution is assembling a collection of Laky's personal papers at the Archives of American Art. Laky is now professor emeritus, University of California, Davis, (chair, Department of Art mid-1990s). Both undergraduate and graduate studies were at UC Berkeley. Postgraduate work followed with the UC Professional Studies in India Program.
Whether grids, vessels, language related sculptures or abstracted architectural forms, Laky’s work cues a combined sensory and mental experience exploring the possibilities of form, arrangement, dimensionality, material, texture and pattern. Laky is fundamentally concerned with learning, remembering, thinking and understanding through the relationship between what is tangible and tactile and what is metaphorical and suggested working where the physical intersects with word, thought, memory and imagination. With simple text, common signs, or familiar objects she probes how experiencing these in visual, physical form might alter, extend and/or enhance a viewer’s response. By what is recognized and what is suggested she seeks mental connections one might not otherwise make - often cunningly combining the verbal with the visceral. With concerns crossing a variety of subjects and social issues - Laky undertakes to make a letter function like a sentence or to make a symbol, single word, sign or object function like a narrative.
At the University of California, Berkeley, during the 1960‘s years of turbulence and social upheaval, Laky developed themes that have influenced her work over the years. She describes herself as an environmentalist and artist activist. She was instrumental in developing Environmental Design at UCD as an independent department becoming a strong advocate for the establishment of an environmental sustainability curriculum in design and art. Some other themes of her sculptures and site-specific outdoor works have touched upon various concerns from time to time, such as gender-equity and diversity in faculty hiring and opposition to war.
Educated among artists and architects, Laky borrows freely from various methods and materials associated with architecture to construct sculptural wall works and freestanding forms while pursuing an aesthetic, intellectual and social enterprise. Through extensive travels she developed an interest in simple, vernacular, hand built structures with natural materials such as fences, basketry, grills, lattices, trellises, scaffolding and foot bridges associated with hand made architecture. Much of her past work has been developed employing hand-construction techniques related to these. The work presented in this exhibition, however, while employing her usual materials (primarily wood gleaned from orchard pruning, park and garden trimmings and street trees), includes some new works that take the form of assembled arrangement of parts - marks on a wall - without the use of any structuring. In such recent works Laky became particularly interested in symbolic systems such as the letters of a writing system, characters, elements, graphic representations, hieroglyphs, ideographs, morphemes, calligraphs, pictographs, runes, signs, or syllabary.
Characteristic sharp, slant cuts of sections of branch heighten edginess - her works are also invigorated by her attraction to puzzles and a fascination with human ingenuity. They are sometimes playful and quirky and some, an incongruous assemblage of items and ideas. “I like to tease the brain - to promote or even to provoke or cajole, a visual dialogue with the viewer,” Laky says when discussing her work. Her art has been described as “elegant and ornery,” “crude and tidy,” “playful and suggesting menace,” “perfectly formed masses of chaos” that attract and, yet, can suggest the possibility of trouble “making dissonance work for her."
laky’s interest in shapes and forms of letters and symbols might have been a path to learning language as a child. Born in Budapest, early years exposed her to numerous languages. “I consider learning new words and new languages play,” Laky says as she describes some of the
possible motivations for her artwork. She spoke Hungarian and German as a child (mother, a painter, also spoke Polish and French and father, English). At age 5, arriving as a refugee in the U.S., she quickly picked up English (fluency in French came later in High School and then a year in France). In addition, she pursued some studies of German, Russian, Hindi, Italian and Spanish and through travels has been exposed to and played with others - including Mandarin, Catalan, Yiddish, Greek and Dutch.
Her international currency sign series includes to date: the Yuan, Yen, Euro and the Indian Rupee (India’s new design for currency as of 2010) in addition to the US dollar and cent signs. The Turkish lira’s new sign, announced in March of 2012, is her most recent currency work.