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New Aldrich exhibition reflects on the complex sociology of beauty in material culture
Nancy Shaver, Blue Chair as Base, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

RIDGEFIELD, CONN.- The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum is presenting Nancy Shaver: Reconciliation, an exhibition that utilizes a diverse range of objects from material culture, including fabric and photographs, to explore the sociology of aesthetics and how notions of beauty and value are manifested in art, textiles, and the worlds of decoration and fashion.

For Reconciliation, which is on view from May 3 to October 25, 2015, Shaver juxtaposes her recent sculpture made from clothing fabric and other materials found in rural thrift stores with Depression-era photographs by Walker Evans (who was one of her teachers) and both images of and art by painter, textile, and fashion designer Sonia Delaunay. Shaver feels her practice resides midway between the make-do aesthetics of Allie Mae Borroughs, a cotton sharecropper whose home in Alabama was photographed by Evans in 1935, and Delaunay’s life as a Modernist artist in the high-art Parisian fashion world of the 1920s.

Curator Richard Klein explains, “Shaver’s practice is not just based in an intellectual pursuit; it is equally informed by personal experience—specifically a life that has been lived in the dichotomy between her rural, working-class roots and the high-art world that she has engaged since the 1970s. Reconciliation juxtaposes sculpture (made by the artist out of found materials), works by other artists, found objects, folk art objects, and utilitarian objects, all framed by the presence of Evans (1903–1975) and Delaunay (1885–1979). By bringing them into this dialogue between objects, Shaver is revealing the reconciliation involving class and aesthetic values that informs both her art and her life, while acknowledging two artists whose work has impacted her own.”

Klein continues, “Many artists who work with materials or images that originated in popular culture attempt to elevate them, moving them vertically from their populist, working-class roots to high-art commodity status. However, Shaver’s work suggests horizontal movement, a socioeconomic leveling where there really isn’t much of a difference between haute couture and Walmart.

“Shaver’s interest in generating meaning through juxtaposition is evidenced in Henry, her retail shop in Hudson, New York. Henry is not a purely mercantile enterprise, but rather a hybrid form combining elements of Shaver’s studio practice, a retail antique and collectable shop, and public art installation. Often, objects that Shaver acquires for the shop are brought to the studio to become integrated into her sculpture. Unlike most antique shops, the decision to purchase an item to offer to the public is based on Shaver’s quirky aesthetics, not the possible sales potential.”

Nancy Shaver: Reconciliation has been organized by Aldrich exhibitions director Richard Klein.

Shaver was born in 1946 in Appleton, New York. She received her BFA from Pratt Institute in 1969 and from 1970 to 1972 audited Walker Evans’s photography class at Yale University. Her work has been seen in solo exhibitions including in place, John Davis Gallery, Hudson, New York (2013); Three sisters, four beauties and a work horse, Feature Inc., New York (2011); Curt Marcus Gallery, New York (1999, 1987); and Hundred Acres Gallery, New York (1974). Her projects include Incident Report, an experimental viewing station for visual projects, Hudson, New York (2008–ongoing). Shaver’s awards include the Lewis Comfort Tiffany Award (2013); John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2010); Anonymous Was A Woman Grant (2008); Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (1993); Yaddo Fellowship (1974); McDowell Colony Fellowship (1972, 1973).

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