Awards & Articles

Paul Shapiro: Quantumscapes

SBy Jon Carver. Reprinted with permission from THE Magazine. September 2006.


Paul Shapiro painting The Folding of Space 2004

The Folding of Space #19. 2006. 16 x 12 inches.
Acrylic and Collage on Masonite.

PAUL SHAPIRO IS MY HERO. For any younger artist, his tenacity and capacity for switching up his style when the time comes is impressive. He started in Santa Fe by pioneering a bold, abstract approach to the local landscape. After considerable success in this mode he began to explore the isolated purity of the gestural mark-making that he used in his earlier pictures. The result was a plethora of calligraphic collage works with a Zen elegance and formality that engage visual beauty directly.

But Shapiro knows his art history backward and forward and knows there are always new vistas around the bend. His most recent work comes straight out of his prolific past efforts, but appears also to be a complete departure. His train of thought ran toward higher physics and dropped him off at the basic question: What is reality? If more of humanity had the
humility to admit that at this point science has no answer to this question, that we don’t have a clue really as to why we’re here or how or even what here is, then maybe we’d have more great art and less big trouble.

And Shapiro is making great art. He uses a “secret technique” to produce amazing small-to-medium scale abstractions that sing and surge like the very cosmos. These are pictures of black holes and the vast reaches of interstellar space, of the paths of whizzing electrons, and the micro-world of particle physics where subatomic structures fire and flux. Higher
physics, having reached a point where perception isn’t actually possible, has become a creative activity for theory builders, and the theories are increasingly bizarre and unprovable. And this is where art can step in. Just as Picasso and Braque predicted Einstein before the wild-haired genius got there, Shapiro is intuiting his way to the basic structures and antistructures
of the universe. That his work will undoubtedly later be shown to replicate whatever eleven-dimensional superstring model we eventually accept as reality is no small feat.

Even if we put those grand (but plausible) claims behind us these are damn good paintings from a simple art perspective. While modest in scale, these pictures pioneer a new visual language and space for gestural abstraction that expands on all the complexities of Pollock’s spatial achievement with an elegance that is pure Shapiro. His ability to sidestep the decorative—
the pitfall of most contemporary abstractionists—is his greatest strength. These aren’t Target-inspired knockoffs, they’re the real deal. His goal is no less than the movement of humanity toward a more holistic consciousness and understanding of our place in the cosmos. Somebody has to light the way, and, thankfully, Shapiro’s carrying the torch..

Governor's Art Award 2010 New Mexico