Lot 8
  • 8

Joel Shapiro

bidding is closed


  • Joel Shapiro
  • Untitled
  • inscribed Joel Shapiro and dated 2011-2017
  • painted bronze
  • 270 by 250 by 78cm.
  • 106 1/4 by 98 1/2 by 30 3/4 in.

Catalogue Note

Weighing abstraction against figuration and balancing monumentality with agility in a seeming defiance of gravity itself, Untitled is a joyous expression of Joel Shapiro’s mature work. In developing his artistic vision Shapiro has consistently sought to ground his works more specifically in the world, the paradox is that he has achieved this by liberating them from the physical space that surrounds them. Although the works are very literally fixed into the earth beneath them, they nonetheless give the impression of breaking free from that restraint. They elude the associative heaviness of large-scale bronzes; as the artist explains, ‘the character of a work is never the product of imposing size but rather of articulation’ (quoted in Joel Shapiro (exhibition catalogue), PaceWildenstein, New York, 2007-08, p. 5). There is a movement and energy in the works that is contingent on this articulation, providing a sense of the sculptural object in air and a vitality that is central to the figurative element.

The figurative element – which Shapiro has described as a ‘psychology of form’ – underpins all the constituent aspects of his sculptures. The vivid blue of Untitled reveals Shapiro’s skill as a colourist but it is also subordinate to his desire to communicate. As the artist explained ahead of his Pace Gallery exhibition earlier this year, colour for him is always imbued with intention: ‘The idea of thinking in colour always interested me. If you are a sculptor and you use colour, the colour has to mean something, do something to change your perception of the piece. Cobalt violet obfuscates form and blue withdraws’ (quoted in ‘Pace Gallery presents: Joel Shapiro’, Nowunknown, 26th April 2017, online resource).

Revealing a remarkable economy of means in terms of both colour and form, Untitled exemplifies Shapiro’s desire to place his works in their own space, and through that achieve a new mode of sculptural expression. As he explained: ‘There’s a limited amount of possibility of expression within a relatively reduced vocabulary that I’ve worked with. I’m not going to invent some new shape. I’ve not been terribly interested in the repositioning of found objects. I was more interested in the reconfiguration of and repositioning of relatively known, simple geometric forms. As long as the work was bound up by architecture or predicated on architecture, you know, it would only have limited possibility. I wanted to overcome that.’ (Michèle Gerber Klein, ‘Joel Shapiro’, in BOMB Magazine, no. 109, Fall 2009).