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Alan Shields

Frieze New York – Spotlight | Maze Art Basel Unlimited

May 2016


Published on the occasion of Frieze New York (May 2016) and featuring The earliest sewn work on raw canvas, Go Round Rubber Ring, 1968, signals Alan’s interest in systems from which he never waivered. Rectangles, stars, pyramids and circles populate his work and serve to give it a framework. Because Alan grew up on a farm, he was exposed to quilting at an early age so he incorporated sewing and beading into his art as a means of structure and decoration. Gradually the artist develops his sense of riotous color applied in large fields, punctuated by drawing with thread and overpainting as in Oskar Thryller wilsondar, 1971. Inverted Gumdrop, 1972-73 is a fine example of his use of cotton belting, which he painted and wove into unique shapes that could be seen from multiple viewpoints. On paper he experimented with cutting and sewing using found materials such a paper towels or paper he made himself.


Also published on the occasion of Art Basel Unlimited (June 2016). Elements and motifs from Shields’ canvases and hanging grid works resonate within Maze. Large, bright swathes of mottled color punctuated with multi-colored dots, triangles and stripes are strung together on an armature of painted poles. Two egresses encourage the viewer to enter and seek an exit, guided through the interior of painted canvas walls and webs of cotton belting. The interior is simultaneously opaque and transparent as some portions of the labyrinth are obscured and others revealed, presenting a new perspective with each turn. Creating a fully immersive viewing experience, Shields has combined many of his preferred materials, techniques and forms into his largest work. In a documentary film from 1986, he discusses the conception and construction of the piece: “If you walk around inside of it, you’ll see that there are a lot of different canvases, again, you’ll see that I use partially my theater background, and partially the painting aspect, but it’s like a stage set. When you get inside of it, you’ve got a ceiling overhead, you’ve got walls, corridors, intersections, changes of direction, all directed by a type of architecture within architecture.”


Hardcover; accordion fold double sided; 36 pages

ISBN 978-88-7336-606-5