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  • Writer's pictureDavid Eichholtz

Dee Shapiro Included in New Phaidon Book, “Vitamin C+, Collage in Contemporary Art”

Dee Shapiro

My Standing Nude, 2022

Collage, Mixed media on paper

26 x 16 "

Vitamin C+, Collage in Contemporary Art Editor: Rebecca Morrill First published 2023 © Phaidon Press Limited ISBN: 978 1 83866 557 9 Dee Shapiro, pages 244-245


Having entered the art world in her late thirties, Dee Shapiro soon became aligned with the Pattern and Decoration (P&D) movement of the mid-1970s. The movement arose in the United States due to awareness among its founding artists that the dominant art movements (particularly Minimalism and Conceptualism) were marginalizing abstract art that was deemed 'ornamental', which meant the exclusion of non-Western and feminine traditions. Often working with the same grid that Minimalist painters used to flatten perspective and remove any pictorial depth, P&D artists incorporated pattern from a broad range of global influences, echoing domestic designs of carpets, wallpapers, fabrics and quilts, yet positioning their output firmly in the realm of fine art. . .

Shapiro's early works reflected an interest in mathematical concerns and, in particular, the Fibonacci sequence, which she used as a means of developing abstract compositions. She initially produced paintings, which echoed the aesthetics of textiles in her evocation of knots made of pigment and chevron patterns that appeared like rows of knitting. She then moved towards a practice rooted in collage that uses fragments of textiles and other found patterns, and this became the major strand of her practice in the decades that followed . . .

One of the key proponents of P&D was Miriam Schapiro (1923-2015), who coined the term 'femmage' to describe artistic processes that combined elements of collage and assemblage but also drew on traditionally female crafts, including sewing, hooking, patching and appliquéing. It is an apt term to describe much of Shapiro's work, including the abstract compositions made in the last decade that combine geometric and biomorphic forms with patterned backgrounds and found objects. Game Fun (2020), for example, includes a chess piece, dominoes and Scrabble tiles, while A Cycle of Rest (2021) makes use of a small, repeating image of a reclining nude from art history, amid a constellation of colourful concentric circles. . .

Since 2018, Shapiro has moved away from abstraction towards dramatically figurative works. These are inspired by some of the most iconic paintings of European art history, including Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus (1485-6), Francisco de Goya's The Naked Maja(1795-1800) and Henri Rousseau's The Dream (1910). They take the form of irregular-shaped works on paper that incorporate sections of Shapiro's own paintings - cut up and reassembled - combined with elements of found patterns from sources including Japanese papers, book endpapers, tissue, fabrics and lace. Her figures' faces are replaced by images taken from magazines of celebrated and recognizable contemporary women: Amy Winehouse, Marilyn Monroe and, as seen in My Standing Nude (2022), Elizabeth Taylor, whose tilted head is placed on Paul Cezanne's Standing Nude (c.1898). By adding such famous faces, Shapiro draws a contrast with the anonymity of the women who originally modelled for these historic paintings. The effect is visually jarring and demonstrates the power of collage to create new meanings by the bringing together of disparate parts.


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