New York

Nancy Shaver

Curt Marcus Gallery

Nancy Shaver groups found objects, primarily domestic items like coffeepots, dishes, and decorative bric-a-brac, with paintings by naive artists and reproductions of works by artists such as Cézanne and Gauguin, creating loose sculptural ensembles. In some cases the images cluster on the wall, like the groupings seen on suburban staircases; elsewhere they spill onto the floor and out into the room. In Art (all works, 1989), a row of paintings ranging from red-on-red abstractions to still lifes to a framed reproduction of Cézanne’s card-players stretches out across the wall; a coffeepot and dishes rest on a palette near the floor. In Art: “Pink Rose” and “Irises” by Charlotte Bacon; postcard, “Alscamps, Arles,” by Gauguin; “Half Blue Pitcher Drawing”and “Pitcher Drawn in Brown” by Nancy Shaver, the links are more conceptual than formal, as Shaver equates works by a naive painter, Gauguin, and herself, thus commenting on the tendency to discriminate between professional and amateur artists. In The American, a print of a landscape painting is accompanied by a separate, framed statement, reading, “He is American.” The work comes across as a light reproach for the way museums (and museumgoers) “explain” art using such categories as nationality and chronological period. In Lives, connections between the elements are tenuous. A porcelain doll, a checkerboard, an Impressionist painting of a woman in a flower shop, a snapshot of a girl playing the violin, a pair of mittens, and a handwritten text reading, “She had had four children,” are inexplicably juxtaposed and fail to cohere as a unified piece.

Shaver manipulates ordinary objects and works by untrained artists in ways that reflect high-art concerns and techniques. Particularly apparent is her debt to Matisse and to Minimalism. Her paintings and line drawings of vases borrow from the former; the blank monochrome paintings, such as In Red and Green, derive from the latter. Shaver’s work suggests that all objects resonate with meanings and generate associations. What this show recalls, perhaps inadvertently, is that much “high art,” from Cézanne’s and Matisse’s still lifes to Analytical Cubism, is based on (and, in the case of collage, made from) familiar domestic objects, such as wine bottles, newspapers, vases, and fruit bowls. Shaver merely brings the “originals” into the gallery and positions them alongside their painted versions. These objects nicely complement her use of Minimalist paintings as objects. Shaver’s collections of found objects and her crudely rendered, homespun canvases aren’t much to look at. But their multilevel conceits are worthy of attention.

––Lois E. Nesbitt