Joel Shapiro’s Bronzes

The Bronzes by Joel Shapiro, photo by Elizabeth Inglis
Shadow play from Joel Shapiro’s Bronzes, photo by Elizabeth Inglis

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is located in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. Within the museum are galleries, a gift shop, lecture hall, and a roof-top restaurant and bar, all partially enclosed by glass walls on a corner of iconic  State Street. One fall evening, I walked into the gallery showing the art of Joel Shapiro’s Bronzes. How fun! His pieces of sculpture are massive and seem either a little off balance or meticulously constructed  to keep balanced despite their appearance.  It was a challenge to imagine how Shapiro got the bronze beams to stand upright without fear of them falling over. The size of these sculptures are also huge; every piece could stand its own in the outdoor landscape. Comparing the heights of people viewing the show with the art structures empathized their monumental quality.  Besides the impression that the medium of bronze gives; looking at them, the viewer finds they also suggest figures that may  be dancing or walking. The show continues through January 13th, 2019 at MMOC.  The artist Joel Shapiro has created a gallery space which is fun and is interactive simply by looking.

It is interesting to know that Shapiro was influenced by Indian sculpture when he served as a Peace Corp volunteer in India.  He felt that sculpture depicted

” the dynamism of human form”.

Robert Morris, Richard Serra and Donald Judd also influenced his art.

Joel Shapiro, according to an interview with the  Brooklynrail.org,  grew up in a leftist, well-educated neighborhood of New York city. Briefly, he and his family moved to Texas during WWII but then moved back to Sunnyside Gardens, a planned community expressing utopian ideals through architecture in New York city.  After 2 years in India during the 60’s , he returned  to graduate school at NYU.  His art moves back and forth between abstraction and representation.

” I think abstraction is simply an act of tremendous faith and very difficult and painful to  sustain.”   Joel Shapiro

Shapiro’s reputation extends internationally, having shown his work at 160 solo exhibits. Currently, perhaps, Joel Shapiro is exploring the idea of :  “the projection of thought into space without the constraint of architecture.”