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Rochester, New York

Threshold

A giant steel sculpture with animals in its shadows. 

About as well hidden as an eight-story, bright yellow sculpture can be, Albert Paley’s “Threshold” is a monument to both the creative and construction side of steel work.

Built from everyday steel-working objects like I-beams and round and square tubing, a highlight of the sculpture is that it projects the shapes of plants and animals on the ground around it when the sun hits it at the right angle. Commissioned by Klein Steel, Paley’s collaborator for more than 40 years, the sculpture is painted “safety yellow,” the color most easily registered by the human brain. 

Threshold was built with the drops left over from cutting out animal shapes for another of Paley’s works, the Animals Always sculpture that greets visitors to the St. Louis Zoo. That steel sculpture is in the shape of a grand gate made out of the images of animals and plants. These images were cut out of steel plates using a plasma torch at Klein Steel. The plates (or drops) remained intact, with these evocative shapes cut out of them, and were arranged into Threshold.

Some of the cutout shapes are obscure, but clearly visible are the shapes of trees and branches, a rhinoceros, and some kind of waterfowl, a goose or swan. The sculpture looks completely different from different angles, and like a giant next to Klein Steel. As tucked away as Threshold is, it is so tall that it is visible from a distance, including from the nearby NY-390 highway.