THE ALDRICH CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM
258 Main Street
May3 - October 25
Nancy Shaver uses and reorganizes the material chaos of our visually saturated everyday. As an assemblage artist, she weaves together found patterns and refashions them into eclectic juxtapositions of disorderly order. A typical Shaver form consists of a grid of boxy canvases, usually joined together two deep into a larger block, and covered with different patterned fabrics upon which are also collaged clothes and pieces of drawings. On display here is an early example, Cigar Boxes, 1990, consisting of various earthy brown and yellow fabrics over a stack of rectangular blocks on a grid of cubes, as well as a later iteration from 2015: Blue Chair as Base, in which a Matisse-esque series of cerulean-blue forms dance over a blue-and-green matrix of blocks. This entire piece snuggles against a low aquamarine chair—Shaver’s witty version of a plinth.
Invited to expand the context of her practice with historical material, Shaver picked the photographs of her friend Walker Evans along with some of Sonia Delaunay’s pieces to display. This juncture of repeating designs and quotidian scenes is the wellspring of Shaver’s bricolage. Things from the world gently work their way into her sculpture but also sit alone, deprived of function, exuding their own worldly presence. One of these is a Moroccan rag rug from circa the 1960s. The exhibition’s centerpiece, a triptych, is A Hybrid (a decorative ensemble), 2014, which includes a large round brass mirror adorned with a relief of the zodiac and flanked by Shaver’s trademark block matrices, making clear the worldly inspiration of her art.
Art and Its Inspiration, Side by Side, at the Aldrich
By Susan Hodara
Stepping into the Leir Atrium at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, visitors encounter a motley group of objects arranged on a wall and an adjacent platform. There are photographs, a massive cluster of handmade rope and an anthropomorphized banjo with spiky hair. Nearby are a woven basket, a Victorian vase and a yellow plastic toy telephone. Interspersed throughout are Nancy Shaver’s quirky quiltlike assemblages of fabric-wrapped wooden blocks, some mounted on the wall, others perched on metal rods and one attached to a tree stump.
The installation is part of Ms. Shaver’s exhibition, “Reconciliation,” which continues on the museum’s second floor with another assortment of items displayed alongside her works. The show is an examination of hierarchical categorization, artistic influence and how meaning and value are altered by placement and proximity — themes that pervade the Aldrich in its latest semester of shows, “Circumstance.”
“Circumstance” consists of concurrent solo exhibitions by six contemporary artists. The museum commissioned the artists to produce new pieces and asked them to choose other objects and artworks to provide context and reveal their sources of inspiration.
“They each created a different ‘circumstance’ through which to view their work,” said Amy Smith-Stewart, the Aldrich’s curator. “We wanted to show that inspiration comes from all kinds of sources, and we actually put those sources in the galleries.” New York Times - July 11, 2015
Nancy Shaver's "Reconciliation" takes inspiration from photographs of working-class families and their homes by Walker Evans — whom Shaver met when she audited one of his classes at Yale — and abstract fabric patterns by Sonia Delaunay. In Shaver's work, Evans' respect for the inelegant but heartfelt aesthetics of struggling people meets Delaunay's geometric aesthetic. In a variety of fabrics — some elegant, some bottom-of-the-barrel — Shaver creates multicolored 3D cloth sculptures in checkerboard or tic-tac-toe patterns.
"Nancy Shaver drew from two extremes. She was from a working-class family and was out of her element in the art world, but she also was part of that art world," said exhibitions director Richard Klein. "She found things in thrift stores and Wal-Mart, and some rarefied fabrics like Japanese kimono fabric. She turned found materials into a high-art commodity. If she makes something out of these fabrics, it's considered a sculpture." Hartford Courant - June 1, 2015
Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
258 Main St.