Kendall Shaw, Energy in Space, 50 Years  


The Gallery at 1GAP, Richard meier on Prospect Park, January 21- May 24, 2016

The Gallery at 1 GAP and The National Arts Club are pleased to present a joint retrospective of painter Kendall Shaw. Born in 1924 in Creole New Orleans, Shaw has produced five decades of paintings, uniting themes of sensuality, rhythm and energy, in a range of styles including Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Minimalism, and Pattern and Decoration. Shaw credits art with the capacity to move people emotionally and to connect them through the subconscious. His paintings blend sexuality, musicality, and human emotion into one raw energy.   

He was raised near the ancient pine forests of Louisiana and on the Gulf of Mexico, where he absorbed the sounds of New Orleans jazz and the bright colors of Mardi Gras. In 1951 while working toward a PhD in chemistry at Louisiana State University, he enrolled in a painting class taught by Social Surrealist O. Louis Guglielmi. By supporting himself by working at a chemical company, he continued to study with painters Ralston Crawford, Stuart Davis and later, Mark Rothko.  

Shaw joined Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture in 1960 and taught there for 25 years. He had a studio in Avery Hall where he developed ideas for his Cajun Minimal paintings. Influenced by Le Corbusier’s modular measurement system of a body standing with arms outstretched above the head, he made paintings that have adult size and child size proportions, referred to as “Adult Model” and “Youth Model.” Like stand-ins for individuals, these multi-panel congregations have an anthropomorphic resemblance to a small crowd of people. “My earlier paintings were ABOUT energy,” says Shaw, “and my newer Cajun Minimal paintings reflect actual colored light energy. As an Abstract Expressionist might say, they are not ABOUT, but ARE.” This body of work continues to evolve with recent paintings, Laffite’s Pirogue I (2015), and DeRidder (2015). 

Many of Shaw’s canvases are deeply personal, referencing familiar fabric patterns, and figures dancing and making love. Circular Continuity(1966), made in black painted loops over raw canvas, is an oversized detail of a dress belonging to the artist’s late wife, Francis. The sensual Giorno Dances to Rock and Roll (1965) is a portrait of Shaw’s treasured friend, the poet John Giorno, who he painted from navel to thigh with simple black outlines. This spare lyrical approach continues in later works, such as Sex and the Hot Toyota (1994), and Tittie Totem (1992-93). 

Shaw questions social hierarchies of gender and race, and also orthodoxies held by the dominant art community. In the 1970s, he, along with Miriam Shapiro, Joyce Kozloff and others, contributed to the development of the Pattern and Decoration movement -- a challenge to “pure form” Minimalism. Pattern and Decoration borrowed from craft, decorative, and indigenous arts, looking outside the western cannon for inspiration. Shaw made increasingly personal references in the paintings of this time, including the Etta Lottie Series about his suffragette grandmother. He covered these canvases with bits of ribbon, fabric, gemstones, and by referencing her embroidery. He also looked at Peruvian textiles, Navajo weaving patterns, and learned from some Native American people who avoided drawing a complete circle – seen as a pure shape – as this would be considered hubris. In Delilah (1989), a canvas shaped as a vertical oval, the surface is covered in a mosaic of geometric forms that give the affect of weaving or quilting with paint.  

Shaw, who loves the music of Igor Stravinsky, equates the painting Arisez (1988- 2014) to a little symphony: mov. 1. from the bottom: sleep that is the large black square with masculine and feminine dream lines in white; mov. 2.  becoming awake: the horizontal color band with Day-Glo orange lines flitting though color shapes and also through white lines that are as feminine in reference as they are masculine; mov. 3. a circular ending: a movement that refers to a hard male morning problem. Allons Danser!  Kendall Shaw: Energy in Space, 50 Years, is curated by Suzy Spence

Kendall Shaw: Collective Energy, Sacred and Profane, is organized by Robert Yahner and Dee Shapiro for The National Arts Club Kendall Shaw lives and works in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His works are in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, Ogden Museum, Everson Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, New York University, Orlando Museum, Polk Museum of Art, Mississippi Museum of Art, University of North Carolina, among others. He has had solo exhibitions at Lowe Art Gallery (2012), Hudson Guild, NY (2012); Skoto Gallery, NYC (2011); Ruskin Gallery/East Anglia University, Cambridge, England (2007); Ogden Museum of Southern Art New Orleans (2004); Tulane University, New Orleans (2001); Artists Space, NYC (1992); Lerner/Heller Gallery, NYC (1982, 1981, 1979); Tibor de Nagy Gallery, NYC (1968, 1967, 1965, 1963).  Recent group exhibitions include The Hard Line Anita Shapolsky Gallery (2014), NYC; Starting Out: 9 Abstract Painters, 1958-1971, Tibor De Nagy Gallery, NYC (2014); "I Kan Do Dat," curated by Danny Simmons , Rush Arts Gallery, NYC (2014).  Earlier exhibitions include Pattern Painting, P.S. 1, New York (1978); Pattern Painting Brooklyn Museum (1974); Modular Paintingcurated by Robert Murdock, Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY (1970). He is represented by Eric Firestone Gallery in New York.