Joel Shapiro

Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

The use of categories in analysis and description of art objects is often necessary, for parallels and influences are noticed, prototypes discovered, and common metaphors claimed. But it is essential to distinguish between the use of these terms in writing about art history, when the finitude of a life or work can be safely bracketed, and its use in contemporary criticism, where they behave too frequently like opaque systems which obscure the particular. It is ultimately not the rough groupings which yield insight, but the individual work.

The problem of blanket categorization can be seen in the treatment of what is called “Conceptual art.” For example, the works of Terry Fox, Mel Bochner, and Joel Shapiro are all termed “Conceptual” although one’s experience of each show reveals absolutely no connections between them in concept or execution. Terry Fox’s hospital room at Reese Palley is a

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