Alice Aycock’s Hoop-La

December 30, 2020

Alice Aycock’s Hoop-La

At Capital One’s headquarters, guests can find a massive semi-architectural sculpture, Hoop-La (2016-2018) by award-winning artist Alice Aycock, commissioned by Capital One and made from powder-coated aluminum and steel. With its grand size, swirling-vortex shape, and all-over-white color palette, Hoop-La is impossible to miss; it is the largest, most complex, and most architecturally challenging structure among Aycock’s Turbulence series. Make sure to get up close and walk around the sculpture to view the multidirectional design that changes as you walk around the sculpture. From one side, it is a big arc. From another, it is as if you are walking into a vortex with flower-like shapes at the center. Another position presents wing-shaped elements shooting up into the air, like that of a bird or airplane ready to alight or ascend.

About the Artist

When artist Alice Aycock (b. 1946) got her start in the early 1970s, she was one of a few women--alongside Nancy Holt and Mary Miss--associated with the land art or earth art movement that featured large-scale public art made outdoors from building and natural materials. Land art was mostly an all-boys club best exemplified by Robert Smithson dumping mud and salt crystals in the Great Salt Lake in Utah for his Spiral Jetty (1970) or Mike Heizer digging two trenches into the side of a cliff in Nevada's Moapa Valley for his Double Negative (1969).

One of Aycock's first works was Maze, a 32-foot-in-diameter wooden labyrinth experience that could be walked through on a rural Pennsylvania farm near her hometown of Harrisburg. Even though art historians like Rosalind Krauss cited Aycock's contributions as early as 1979, it was much later that Aycock was given the same scholarly recognition as her male peers with Robert Hobbs' long-overdue monograph Alice Aycock: Sculptures and Projects (2005).

Hoop-La Sculpture

Hoop-La is inspired by Aycock's love of machines--oil derricks, wheels, and turbines--that she inherited from her father, an architect-engineer who worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers, as well as amusement parks. She explains: "One of the reasons I like amusement park architecture--roller coasters and the sooperdooperLooper [at Hersheypark]--is because they make machines accessible and provide the sense of weightlessness that one might experience in outer space." Specifically, the title comes from a traditional fairground game whereby one or several players stand in equal distance and try to toss hoops onto pegs.

Structurally, Hoop-La's swirling DNA-like shape is an allusion to the tension between opposing binaries, such as magic and science or creation and destruction, as well as a reference to wind and weather patterns. Aycock considers Hoop-La to be an exclamation point in relation to the architecture of the surrounding buildings on the campus.

Aycock earned a BA from Douglass College in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where she studied with artist Tony Smith, and an MA from Hunter College in New York City, where she studied with artist Robert Morris. Aycock's many public commissions can be found domestically, including in New York City and Coral Gables, Florida, as well as internationally in Toronto, Canada among other locations. Her art is held in many prominent permanent collections, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Storm King Art Center in New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Aycock has exhibited her art at the prestigious Venice Biennale, Document VI and VIII, and the Whitney Biennial and is the recipient of four fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and a lifetime achievement award from the International Sculpture Center. Since 1968, Aycock has called New York City home.

Check out the 2009 interview with Aycock by the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art for its oral history archives.