NEW YORK, NY.- David Richard Gallery is presenting a solo exhibition of paintings and collages by artist Dee Shapiro. The presentation debuts Shapiro’s newest body of work, her first ever figurative paintings that examine female nudes in art history, but through the artist’s unique lens of patterns and feminist discourse. Also included are earlier geometric paintings from the 1980s of antique Persian rugs that provide both cultural and historical context for the women figures as well as connecting the figures to Shapiro’s love of patterns, textiles and sewing that influenced her career and work for five decades. The inclusion of the artist’s exquisitely detailed paintings on paper of male and female genitalia shift the attention away from objectifying and essentializing the female body to more of a focus on playful and decorative depictions of genitalia as the functional and organic structures they are, with of course, a dose of innuendo. Collectively, these three bodies of work not only span and define Shapiro’s long and thoughtful approach to art making, but provide a cultural context for reconsidering the female body through art. By appropriating and reconsidering female nudes from art history and recontextualizing and re-presenting her own artworks, Shapiro has Snatched and Reworked both hers and the work of others into a masterful and historical feminist discussion.
The exhibition will be on view from September 18 through October 12, 2019 with an artist reception on Sunday, September 22, 2019 from 4:00 to 7:00 PM on the Ground Floor exhibition space at 211 East 121 ST, New York, NY 10035. A digital catalog with an essay by art historian and critic John Yau will be available online.
The presentation, Snatched and Reworked, was inspired by and curated based upon Dee Shapiro’s newest, large-scale figurative paintings (which are entirely new in her oeuvre of pattern work) that she created during a residency at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York this past spring. The figures are her interpretations of classic female nudes that she appropriated from several masters from art history, including: Odalisque in Red Culottes, 1921 by Henri Matisse, Olympia, 1863 by Edouard Manet and Birth of Venus, 1485-86 by Botticelli (see images above and below). She began each painting with her process of letting ink run on large format paper and then literally filling in and around the resulting forms using her unique approach of painting and drawing patterns combined and juxtaposed with collaged elements until the figures emerged, while also maintaining an appropriate level of abstraction and mystery through the layers of pattern. Shapiro’s studio is filled with an intermingling of her many series of paintings and collages, much like a salon with artworks filling the walls, resting in stacks on carpeted floors and leaning against the walls, with smaller pieces nested on shelves for ready viewing. The balance of the exhibition was curated organically by spotting and adding works via a natural mixing of related imagery that quickly unfolded into the feminist narrative in similar and complementing palettes. The vibe of a lush and full salon-like studio setting was clearly evoked by the appropriated paintings, but it inspired the right mindset to curate the presentation.
While viewing the new figurative paintings, several of Shapiro’s early 1980s geometric acrylic, gouache and watercolor paintings on canvas and paper comprised of Persian rugs were hanging nearby and seemed quite appropriate along-side these historical figures. Not only do they extend the use of geometric and decorative systemic patterns observed historically in clothing and salon furnishings, they are elegant and befitting of the classical periods and women in the original paintings. They also speak to long-running influences in Shapiro’s work noted below.
Also within our site line were spectacular watercolor (and ink) paintings on paper that Shapiro created in 2011 and 2012 for an exhibition entitled, Sexing The Polymorphs. In each painting she celebrated male and female genitalia in her own style of fastidious patterns, voluptuous biomorphic forms, and sensual colors with a bit of humor and use of double entendre, both in image and title. Not only do these voluptuous forms speak to the female figures in the classical paintings, but also relate to Shapiro’s own history. She emerged in her professional career in the early 1970s along-side the Feminist art movement that focused on women’s bodies with Womanhouse and work by Miriam Schapiro, Judy Chicago and Carole Schneemann. That period had a long-lasting impact on Shapiro, in addition to growing up with sewing, knitting, counting and mathematics (essential in pattern work), and designing textiles, which all fed her interest in pattern and craft and how it related to women and women’s artwork throughout history.
The Artist's Statement: As in a dream of alternative realities, absurd connections, or on a trip passing familiar landscapes in unfamiliar settings, new conscious and unconscious associations are brought to a two-dimensional surface in my work. In the recent pieces, geometry (seen even in the structure of organic forms) directs composition: arbitrary drops of color undermine control and create shapes that succumb to the overwork of drawings, rendering obsessive intricacies and paint applications to build the forms. Collaged materials add extraneous influences in a subtle blend.
In the beginning was pattern. First, the Fibonacci progression color coded on graph paper, a piece which landed in the Guggenheim Museum in NYC. Next, inclusion in the Pattern and Decoration (P & D) exhibition at PS1, followed by a series of work that included architectural elements "off the grid". With all the work, always color and a nod to the Albers' studies. A redirection to small horizontal paintings of the geometry in cities and landscapes ensued for a number of years.
Missing the early fascination and engagement with pattern led to more recent work exploring evocative biological and organic forms, the evolution of which is the more recent work as well as borrowing from sources that include other artist's work in a collaborative effort. In this new body of work, I am unflinchingly forging ahead to newly wrought terrain.
Upcoming Exhibitions and Select Collections: Dee Shapiro will also be included in the upcoming Pattern and Decoration exhibition, With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972–1985, organized by Anna Katz, Curator, with Rebecca Lowery, Assistant Curator at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles on view October 27, 2019 through May 3, 2020.
Shapiro’s artworks are included in the permanent collections of many museums, foundations and private collections, including the following: Albright-Knox Museum, Buffalo, NY, Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL, Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA, Citibank Collection, NYC, Dartmouth Museum of Art, Hanover, NH, Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NYC, Heckscher Museum, Huntington, NY, Hoffman-LaRoche Collection, Zurich, Switzerland, Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC, Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY, Newark Museum, Newark, NJ, New York University Collection, NYC, Oklahoma Art Center, Oklahoma City, OK, Owens-Corning Corp., Corning, NY, Pepsico Corporation, NY, Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, KS, United States Department of State, Washington, DC, University of Arkansas, Little Rock, AK and William Louis-Dreyfus Family Collection, Mount Kisco, NY, among numerous others.