February 07, 2014 — April 13, 2014

“Alan Shields: Maze” and “Painting Made Different”

Alan Shields (1944‒2005) is a significant figure in the history of twentieth-century painting. Raised on a farm in Herington, Kansas, Shields arrived on the New York art scene in 1968 like a white-hot, whirling bolt from the blue. His rise was meteoric. Within just over a year, his work was featured in important exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art, among others. A New York Times art critic described the experience of seeing Shields’s work in the 1970s as “a little like camping out in paradise.”

The period of the late 1960s and early 1970s was a time of great upheaval in the art world. Painting, particularly abstract painting, was under attack from art critics, who pronounced it no longer relevant. Under these conditions, Shields and other pioneering artists of his generation breathed new life into painting. Their work challenged many of the prevailing notions regarding what constituted meaningful and serious art. In the process, they irrevocably blurred the boundaries between painting, sculpture, and installation.

Maze (1981‒82), the centerpiece of this exhibition, is a monumental summation of Shields’s central beliefs about art and life. This painted environment, created from ordinary and unconventional materials, is an exuberant expression of his conviction that painting need not be constrained by stretcher bars, frames, or walls. Nor should labels like painting, sculpture, and installation define art. Accompanying Maze are two other works: Ajax (1973) and Max Hat (1985). Click here to see the Salina Journal article about the exhibition and to view the video created by Salina Journal staff.

In 2012 curator Jill Brienza invited choreographer Stephen Petronio (born 1956) to create Into the Maze, a performance for eight dancers interacting with Shields’s work. A video of the Stephen Petronio Dance Company’s performance of Into the Maze is also featured in the exhibition.

Click on the video below for a tour of “Maze” with Art Center Executive Director Bill North.

This exhibition and related programs have been made possible in part by support from Salina Art Center members and donors; the Salina Arts and Humanities Grants Program, and the City of Salina; the Capitol Federal Foundation; Van Doren Waxter; and the Estate of Alan Shields.


Images courtesy of Van Doren Waxter and the Estate of Alan Shields.

Click to view slideshow

Alan Shields, Maze, 1981-82. Acrylic and thread on canvas, cotton belting, Velcro, aluminum pipe, 87 x 219 x 219 inches. Courtesy of Greenberg Van Doren Gallery. Alan Shields, Maze, 1981-82. Acrylic and thread on canvas, cotton belting, Velcro, aluminum pipe, 87 x 219 x 219 inches. Courtesy of Greenberg Van Doren Gallery. Alan Shields, Maze (Detail), 1981-82. Acrylic and thread on canvas, cotton belting, Velcro, aluminum pipe, 87 x 219 x 219 inches. Courtesy of SITE Santa Fe.

Salina Art Center programs, exhibitions and films are presented in part by Salina Art Center donors; the Horizons Grants Program of Salina Arts & Humanities, and by the City of Salina.