Two concurrent exhibitions at LABspace in Hillsdale present a dynamic juxtaposition of personhood and place: The group show “Body High” offers a fantastical perspective of the human form in an energetic blowout of colorful chaos, while “Dee Shapiro: Peripheral Visions” transports us to gritty street corners and stoic cityscapes devoid of any figures at all. Curated by artists and co-directors of LABspace, Ellen Letcher and Julie Torres, side by side, these shows are a visual feast of varying proportions: The imaginative gymnastics of human embodiment as witnessed in “Body High” are balanced by the solitary scenes of Shapiro’s architectural isolation.
With “Body High” living up to its buoyant title, nine artists explore the multidimensional realms of mortal realities through paintings and works on paper that occupy the entire gallery space from floor to ceiling in an all-out celebration of radical compositions and diverse styles. Zohar Lazar’s dense, cartoon-like, psychedelic illustrations of delightfully bizarre characters and Michael Van Winkle’s motley troupe of frolicking fellows with oversized fingers and noses, for example, are contrasted with Lois Dickson’s abstracted female at a dance class and Julia Schwartz’s simple gouache series of a lone woman in various states of repose with her kitten.
The diversity of the “Body High” panorama is further fleshed-out through sacred scenes of male intimacy by Jacob Fossum; richly hued contorted bodies by Olivia Tawzer; ashen ghostlike figures by Pauline Decarmo; and sweet, silly, and kinky paintings by Kelsey Renko and Rebecca Litt. One lap through this exhibit does indeed produce a sense of euphoria, and a second round reveals yet another layer of pleasing jubilation.
The transition from “Body High” and its enunciated adventure of the corporeal into the adjacent gallery and the exquisite atmosphere of Shapiro’s urban and pastoral landscapes is a dramatic shift in scale and focus. All uniformly measuring 2 by 10 inches and painted between 2000 and 2010, this series of horizontal works are stunningly perfect in their reverence and reflection. Ranging from familiar visions of compact urban thoroughfares from her travels around the globe to the muted geometry of rural life, every one of Shapiro’s paintings is a mini masterpiece. When my eyes landed on Cardenas (2003), this petite representation of fading afternoon light at an intersection somewhere in Cuba moved me to tears with its purity and pause. Among these painted treasures by Shapiro, works such as East 94th Street (2002), Red Hook (2007), and Cruising the Hudson (2009) capture the dignity of the New York region and its varying geographies.
Shapiro’s Peripheral Visions is a poetic encapsulation of a periphery that exists somewhere between time and timelessness, and these works also attest to a decade gone-by for the artist. “Every 10 years I try something else,” Shapiro says. Thus, the physical-metaphysical encounter to be had at LABspace this month—from gracefully silent metropolitan moments to the wild miscellany of bodily eccentricity—invites us to consider the carnal and the industrial as parallel spheres of human revelry and realization.