Alan Shields: A Different Kind of Painting features more than 40 of the late artist’s radical textile works that challenge the notion of painting, some shown for the first time.
Asserting a progressive attitude, Shields (b. 1944 Herington, Kansas, d. 2005 Shelter Island, New York), influenced by the mid-1960s era of cultural change and an interest in Buckminster Fuller’s new architecture, set out to create artworks for future spaces.
Shields studied civil engineering and studio art at Kansas State University before moving to New York in 1968. There he created three-dimensional, two-sided, and architecturally adaptable paintings, as well as works in papermaking, printmaking, installation, and wearable artworks, showing with Paula Cooper Gallery from 1968 to 1991.
In Shields’ rural early years on a Kansas farm, he harnessed the necessity of the familial-made object. Things that were not entirely crafted by hand were repaired to the point of familiarity. He found fascination with sewing, which was often referred to as “women’s work.” He recounted:
I didn’t have any [examples] of men working at sewing machines. I think it’s one of those things people find remarkable even today — me, this big hulk of a person with hands the size of hams, trying to do delicate things on a sewing machine. Part of that has to do with displacing myself from that position of being a farm community person into another culture or another part of American society where those things are not commonplace, so I could surprise people. Part of my purpose, all the time, as far as being an artist is concerned, is to surprise people …
This exhibition at Beeler Gallery focuses on Shields’ textile works and reconsiders his utopian goal to change painting in consideration of the demands future spaces will put on artworks. However, here, the paintings pressure the gallery architecture into subservience, towards a languishing feeling for the future yet to be fully realized. The perpetual newness of Alan Shields’ work inspired Beeler Gallery’s concurrent exhibition Stitch, as a conversation with artists who utilize fabric in painting to internalize notions of elasticity, color, structure, and haptic adaptability.
A catalog with writings by art critic Bob Nickas and art historian Robert Slifkin will be published in fall 2017 by Beeler Gallery. A conversation between Nickas and Slifkin will take place on Thursday, Sept. 7, at 6:30 p.m., followed by a reception at 7:30 p.m.
Curated by Ian Ruffino.