Dan Shapiro was born in New York City in 1920. He studied at the Cooper Union Art School in the early 1940s and, after military service in World War II, at Columbia University from 1944-46. He became fascinated at this time with the innovative printmaking that was taking place at Stanley William Hayter's Atelier 17 in New York, and printmaking was to remain his main artistic concern until the early 1960s.
From 1947-57 Shapiro taught at Bennington College in Vermont and, after a brief period teaching at Columbia University, he moved to California in 1959 where he taught at UC Davis for the remainder of his career. Shaprio's prints were shown widely at this time, including exhibitions at the Library of Congress and at the San Francisco Museum of Art (with Claire Falkenstein).
In the early 1960s Shapiro's interests began to turn to painting as well and in 1963 he was awarded a MacDowell Fellowship. During his month-long stay at the New Hampshire Colony he produced the "Haiku" series of paintings, five of which are exhibited here. Shapiro had always been interested in the spontaneous gesture in art, and his parallel interests in poetry and Asian calligraphy, as well no doubt as the chance to create a body of work in an uninterrupted environment, led to this series. As in the form of poetry they take their name from, each painting follows a simple set of rules; all are limited to two colors and are the same size. Indeed Shapiro also imagined that the paintings could be shown in groups, or modular arrangements, of various numbers of paintings.
Shapiro exhibited widely in the 1960s, often in the company of fellow UC Davis faculty members Robert Arneson, Wayne Thiebaud, William Wiley, Manuel Neri, Roy DeForest and others. He also had solos shows at the San Francisco Museum of Art, in 1967, and at Rice University, Houston, in 1968. Dividing his time between San Francisco and Davis, Shapiro painted a small, occasional group of works with sporadic text intertwined with vigorous gestural painting. These paintings were usually a direct reference to where he was living, or a place of particular significance, at that time, and three of these unique works are exhibited here.
Shapiro's paintings in the later 1960s explored further the idea of the modular concept that he had first used in the "Haiku Series", and he began to produce paintings with the picture field more strongly divided into separate panels, each filled with somewhat similar abstract forms. The two final paintings shown here, large works from the mid-1970s "Moby Series", show how this interest had evolved; the field is now filled with complex forms and shapes that fit together in a way where the individual forms have no clear top or bottom, and look at the same time both recognizable and indistinct.
Dan Shapiro died in 1982.
All of these paintings come from the artist's estate.
Please click HERE to see a more complete listing of the artist's exhibitions.