Magazine article Artforum International

Joel Shapiro

Magazine article Artforum International

Joel Shapiro

Article excerpt

PAULA COOPER GALLERY

Dispersed throughout a vast space, the ten beams of Joel Shapiro's installation Untitled, 2012-14, took over the large back room of Paula Cooper Gallery. These lengths of wood, each painted a different color, hung in midair, suspended from the ceiling and anchored to the floor with industrial cord. They are mismatched--some are flat planes, some are more boxlike--such that the work, taken as a whole, seemed unstable and incoherent, if not discombobulated and absurd. The sculpture was certainly at odds with gallery's stately grandeur and order, especially the harmonious, serial regularity of the wood rafters lining the ceiling.

Speaking about his work, Shapiro cites Kandinsky's concept of dynamic equilibrium. Here, the equilibrium feels as if it were running amok, stretched to the breaking point--the work comes off as a geometric abstraction undergoing a chaotic explosion. The emptiness of the space is as much a part of the work as the beams and wires.

Shapiro's beams are neither vertical nor horizontal but diagonal, and thus peculiarly dislocated, all the more so because they appear to be perpetually on the move, their momentum seemingly changing with their shifting relationship to one another. The work engages the body of the viewer, inviting him or her to move freely in and through the installation. The appearance of the work changes dramatically as the viewer's position does; the spectator's roaming perspective is the installation's mobile center. …

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