• Joel Shapiro

    American Academy in Rome
    Via Angelo Masina 5
    March 15–May 15, 1999

    Why do the most memorable moments in abstract art so often occur in works where a trace of the figural lingers? Is it simply that the familiarity of a code provides a coordinate of stability, enabling formal invention while rendering it legible? No one appreciates this little truth more than sculptor Joel Shapiro, who has spent three decades elaborating a rudimentary figural repertoire—stick men and everyday icons—with a formal precocity on which, it seems increasingly apparent, his reputation will stand or fall. How might history judge Shapiro's achievement?The long view will doubtless be invited as the Eternal City plays host to seventeen of the artist's sculptures, both in the galleries of the American Academy and scattered alfresco about Roma's fabled piazzas.