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Pace Galleries

"Joel Shapiro: New Sculpture": Reviewed by The New York Times

Joel Shapiro's latest show is exquisite: a focused, perfect arrangement of just under a dozen sculptures filling Pace Wildenstein in Chelsea. This may well be the artist's best effort in years. The work may look old-fashioned to some, with its attention to relationships between abstraction and representation, its choice of weighty materials (wood and bronze) and its heroic scale. The pieces may even be reminiscent of David Smith's, specifically his final ''Cubi'' series of monumental geometric sculptures made of stainless-steel cubes and prisms. Certainly Mr. Smith opened up a space for abstract sculpture in which Mr. Shapiro works. But Mr. Shapiro is very much his own artist, with his own style and set of aesthetic concerns, chief among them the striving for a sense of compositional balance between opposites. His sculptures are compact yet fluidly elegant; rapturously open yet contained; full of life yet inert; majestic yet humble. Several seem to defy gravity, with the arrangements of the cubes, prisms and rectangles surging into the air (left, ''Untitled,'' 2005-7). The works can also be brightly colored or lovingly hand-finished, the surface of the bronze sculptures made to resemble wood. They are like scaffolding crossed with a bouquet of flowers.
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