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March 05, 2021
Acquisition: Nancy Shaver,
"Georgiana, Shirley, and Sharon"
Acquisitions Press Release
phone: (202) 842-6355
The National Gallery of Art has acquired its first sculpture by Nancy Shaver (b. 1946) entitled Georgiana, Shirley, and Sharon (2011). Given to the Gallery by Elizabeth Kessenides, it joins an earlier photograph, Striped T-shirt on Plywood (1975–1977), in the collection. This work amplifies the aesthetic traditions that celebrate the humble, the colloquial, and the undervalued in American material culture.
Georgiana, Shirley, and Sharon is an example of the recent series of hybrid painting-sculptures that Shaver has referred to as "blockers." These works straddle the distinct categories and genres of painting and sculpture and defy easy classification. The blockers are rooted in the "junking trips" Shaver made with Walker Evans while studying photography with him at Yale University. They shared an interest in the vernacular, a commitment to an art "about the democracy of things," and a trust in the role of a discerning eye in pursuit of their respective "finds"—castoffs in her case, postcards in his.
Each work is composed of irregular wooden blocks of roughly the same size that have either been painted a monochrome hue or covered with a piece of patterned fabric. Arranged in grids to form squares or rectangles, the vivid, chunky compositions are installed flush to the wall. Shaver uses house paint or gouache alongside fabric from women's clothing found in secondhand stores and flea markets. The textiles are often vibrantly colored or busily patterned. In what she sees as a fundamentally redemptive act, Shaver challenges herself to use this material, which she acknowledges as "pretty bleak," to create something that in its very unfamiliarity reveals "the width of beauty."
Georgiana, Shirley, and Sharon, 2011 wooden blocks, fabric, paper, Flashe acrylic paint, and house paintoverall: 27.94 x 27.94 x 8.26 cm (11 x 11 x 3 1/4 in.)National Gallery of Art, WashingtonGift of Elizabeth Kessenides2020.19.1Courtesy of the artist and Derek Eller Gallery, NYC
Curated by Nancy Shaver
Soloway Gallery/ Brooklyn - April 3 – May 2, 2021
Artists often curate group shows in their own image. Broken Dishes at Soloway Gallery is a mosaic of a show organized by Nancy Shaver, and follows her own process of making. Like the found pieces of furniture she embellishes with pottery shards and multi-colored yarn, the narrow storefront volume of Soloway becomes an object on which to affix unexpected treasures, by the curator and her two colleagues Pam Cardwell and Tracy Miller, and fill with words (provided by the poet Charity Coleman). Shaver consciously seeks to remove the notion of traditional gallery etiquette and hierarchy: the artists’ works are tangled together—their placement is about concept, not convenience—and while the works share aesthetic affinities, this is not a group show in the typical sense but more of a collaborative presentation.
Entering the gallery, one is immediately sandwiched between Tracy Miller’s two large-scale canvasses, Skirt (2017) and Stairs (2014), placed not for optimal viewing in a traditional sense but more in an effort to immerse the eye in Miller’s whirling exchange of meticulously painted, witty, and recognizable details. A stunned fish on a tray, a halved grapefruit, or a segment of Blue Willow ceramic vie for visual primacy with abstracted confections, fabric patterns, and pure color blotches and rings. Jammed into Miller’s picture plane, we discard composition in favor of flow, which is the overall sensation of Broken Dishes. There is no sense that each artist is accorded territory in the gallery: Miller’s paintings simply take up more space because they are bigger, and her smaller paintings are nimbly inserted into selections of Pam Cardwell’s small canvases and voluminous abstractions on paper. Comparison of the two painters’ works is inevitable, and Cardwell’s vehicle of expression is a darker and more erratic line, snaking and writhing across the page, enclosing and emanating fields of pigment, as in the fierce Red, Yellow and Blue (2020). Her paintings codify this in more evenly and opaquely laid down layers of color; the lilliputian GW9 (2020) is awkwardly placed at floor level but worth kneeling down to examine. Unlike Miller, whose work flickers and plays with sporadic moments of familiarity, Cardwell’s small paintings hover between Post-Impressionism and Ab Ex, and her larger pastels imply diagrams that have turned their backs on inscribed meaning and instead are beginning to, with a rather sinister turn, embrace a nihilistic entropy: Green Lines (2020) seems to present a roadmap whose highways and turnpikes have grown weary and started to sag.
"Softness on the cusp of suture. The quick quilt will be somewhere. Patchwork tends us. Fissure/crazing occurs. Small disasters have to be repaired (or not).
Charity Coleman’s poem wraps a hoop of steel around the disparate stylistic and conceptual subtexts linking and unlinking in Broken Dishes. The aim of the show, if we take the poet at her word, is oddly aggressive—to almost force into concert a set of works that emerge from different sources. This is most noticeable in the works of Cardwell and Miller that are placed in tight groupings—literally patched together—in the front and back spaces of the gallery. Shaver’s work, largely because of its three-dimensionality, maintains a safe distance. But because it looms into the space itself, and is at times reflective with appliquéd mirrors, or permeable, because of a web of colorful fabric laces tied across an industrial implement of inscrutable nature, as in Drawing #26 (2011), it too actively engages with the other works. Shaver’s Broken Dishes Cupboard (1900–1930, with additions by the artist) is a banal rectangular medicine cabinet, encrusted with fragments of plates, mugs, and sundry vessels. The skin of this cabinet is an act of suturing itself—the jagged bits become a continuous surface to the simple form—but the eccentric lines that are formed by the edges, almost a nod to Cardwell’s tortured pastel lines, remove any sense of regularity, quietude, or aesthetic unity. In moving through the exhibition, the viewer experiences Shaver’s three-dimensional accumulations of found objects built upon and festooned with unexpected debris and color as anchors around which the other two artists’ two-dimensional works seem to cluster. This instigates in the mind a process of finding, looking, and abstracting which at times overwhelms the individual works. The solution is simple, though: to look harder.
April 3 - May 2, 2021
Opening Reception: April 3rd, 1:00 - 4:00
Text by Charity Coleman
The line opens with a proposal.
Sometimes you just have to smash something. It's a matter of directionality - in a way. A caesura is a break/metric, containing jitters. The frame's in stitches, making amends. A yellow frill, the looping scatter taking a walk. Red knots. There's spillage in that blue, right here in black and white. A sectional grouping. Detective, diplomat, architect take flight, awash in fresh color and particulars. We do what we want and enjoy ourselves: it's a hell of a good time.
There's room for a mariner's metronome to set sail, and space for discursive ceramics / a shattered cabinet of medicine and linens. Softness on the cusp of suture. The quick quilt will be somewhere. Patchwork tends us. Fissure/crazing occurs. Small disasters have to be repaired (or not). Plans are shelved or placed on sills like dropped relics in the disappearing hourglass. Look.
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