“Alan Shields”

Beginning in the late 1960s, Alan Shields (1944–2005) was one of a heterogeneous group of Manhattan-based artists reinventing abstract painting. (The cohort also included Howardina Pindell, Jack Whitten, and Mary Heilmann, among others.) As did his peers, Shields explored new materials, methods, and registers; his two- and three-dimensional works mix Modernist devices like the stain […]

Beginning in the late 1960s, Alan Shields (1944–2005) was one of a heterogeneous group of Manhattan-based artists reinventing abstract painting. (The cohort also included Howardina Pindell, Jack Whitten, and Mary Heilmann, among others.) As did his peers, Shields explored new materials, methods, and registers; his two- and three-dimensional works mix Modernist devices like the stain and the grid with craft techniques and tribal, folk, and countercultural motifs. This exhibition, which coincides with a revival of interest in Shield’s work, focuses on the years between 1968 and 1984. Paintings on unstretched fabric, washed with color and embellished with scraps of cloth, glass beads, and machine stitching, reward close looking with a wealth of local detail—a nearly invisible grid of machine-sewn circles in one; a tangle of beads in another—while from a distance, they variously conjure Moroccan rugs, pieced quilts, and hippie jean-jacket embroideries. They are joined by sculptures made from paint-stained canvas belting, as well as typewriter drawings that imbue found texts, such as the ingredients list for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, with a mysterious urgency.