Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Joel Shapiro

Joel Shapiro, New Installation, 2012 Commission, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas Photo: Nash Baker © nashbaker.com

A repost from ModernHouston.net of my art reveiw from March 2012.

First, Rice University Art Gallery hosts an installation piece by Joel Shapiro which is not typical of what I know about the artist's work, but then Texas Gallery is showing Joel Shapiro's signature figurative abstract works. I feel I am getting a real treat and I am glad both are showing at the same time. And to top it off, Shapiro is an internationally recognized and exhibited artist, with works showing at places like the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan and The Menil Collection.

Rice University Art Gallery specializes in just installation art. One is used to seeing Shapiro's work as usually having a figurative reference, so I was taken completely by surprise by the colored hanging bars. The room was one giant abstract sculpture. Very minimal in his use of space, only a few rectangles seem to intersect it. The colors are bright and festive while the lines hold the work aloft, and seem precarious and haphazard.

In contrast to the Rice exhibition, the Texas Gallery is showing Shapiro’s sculptures that reminds me of people caught in the moment of dance. These abstract blocks are simple in shape and line, yet somehow, these objects feel alive and in the process of motion. The colors in the show are more muted than the one at Rice, but the feeling that these objects are lively is in no way diminished.

Another surprise were his minimal charcoal, chalk, and pastel pieces. When so many Minimalists are concerned with the pure hard edge look, Shapiro accents the materials nature to smudge and blur. I come to realize that his work is more about the hand and less about the machine made look. Shapiro is not trying to fool us through tricks of the media, but instead, he is embracing every aspect. From the smudginess of the material in these works to his obvious use of wood in his sculptures, I can really appreciate the physicality he brings to his art.

Joel Shapiro will be showing at the Rice University Art Gallery until March 18th. His show at the Texas Gallery will run until March 31st. If you are ever in Dallas, see his work on permanent display at the North Park Mall. After you see these two shows, his work “20 Elements,” will be unmistakable.

For more pictures of the show visit ModernHouston.net.

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