New York

Joel Shapiro

Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

I’d guess the size of the gallery showing Joel Shapiro’s lilliputian sculptures is about 3500 square feet with 17-foot ceilings. Showing only five tiny things—two on the floor and three on the wall—that’s about 1200 cubic feet per sculpture—the size of an apartment. Unless you’re a dedicated Minimalist looking for less, or you’ve great eyesight, you could be in and out of the gallery without knowing the show was on—as a friend of mine did. Shapiro sculpture—no less interesting for being small—is also meta-art because by its quirky scale and figuration it’s a snub to the continuing tradition of 19th-century monumental sculpture. Jumping formal and conceptual categories intent on transforming ideas into things, or “thingification” as Marx disparagingly called it, the tradition stresses doing it big. Shapiro flouts this macho tradition of big space-occupying sculpture. I enjoy Shapiro’s

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