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Studio Sunday: Joel Shapiro

A photo of sculptor Joel Shapiro in his studio


This week’s Studio Sunday feature is Sculptor Joel Shapiro. Shapiro, an American artist, is best known for his works that utilize relatively uniform rectangular shapes to build up dynamic figures and compositions.


Shapiro began to receive critical acclaim for his works in the 1970s and 80s, and much of his work reflects the aesthetics of minimalism, an art movement that came to prominence in the mid 20th century in America, and focused on clean, geometric lines and shapes, monochromatic colours, and sparse compositions.


The artist’s studio, in the above photo, looks spacious and well-organized. It’s interesting to see a studio that doesn’t seem to have any sort of central work space. There are tables and pieces of sculptural material scattered throughout the space. I wonder if perhaps each “pile” of materials, or each table, represents a different work in progress. Perhaps Shapiro is prone to spreading out his workload and producing several different sculptures in conjunction.


The height of the ceiling -- and the fact that Shapiro himself is pictured standing on a ladder -- is evocative of the scale of the artist’s works. At the back of the room, you can see some coloured beams of sculptural material that seem several times taller than the artist himself. I wonder what sort of massive sculptural works these eventually became a part of!


The materials that Shapiro uses for his works vary depending on the intended installation and size of the piece. Some of the artist’s permanent outdoor installations are constructed from steel and other durable materials, while recently the artist has been producing ceiling-hanging installations using painted wood.

[image source]

About the author

Dallas Jeffs Art Writer

Dallas Jeffs is the Editor of Artist Run Website's blog. They hold a degree in Critical and Cultural Practices from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, as well as a certificate in Technical Writing from BCIT. Dallas has a passion for speaking and writing about art, and sharing that interest with others. In their studio practice they are an illustrator and budding tattoo artist, but they consider themselves a writer foremost. If you like art, books and culture with a science fiction twist, check out Dallas' personal blog, HappySpaceNoises or their art on Instagram.

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