Joel Shapiro

Joel Shapiro is a sculptor. He was born in New York City and received a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Arts degree from New York University. In the 1960s he spent two years with the Peace Corp in India. His works have been shown in numerous solo and group shows in Europe, Asia, and the United States. They appear in the permanent collections of museums worldwide. Shapiro has received numerous honors including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and the Merit Medal for Sculpture from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He was elected to the Swedish Royal Academy of Art in 1994, and to The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1998. Some of his works are currently on view in a special exhibition on the roof gallery of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Selected Objects

     Two Foliate Bowl-and-Saucer Sets
Korea, South Cholla Province
Koryo period, early 12th century
Stoneware with glaze
Bowls, H. 3 5/8 in. (9.2 cm), D. 5 3/4 in. (14.6 cm)
Saucers, H. 1 1/8 in. (2.9 cm), D. 6 1/4 in. (15.9 cm); 1979.193.1-4

The idea that a bowl differentiates and contains space is so intrinsically human and so delicate and fragile. Why not see this as a metaphor of life?

Koryo period, late 11th-early 12th century
Stoneware with glaze
H. 15 1/8 in. (38.4 cm), D. 9 1/2 in. (24.1 cm); 1979.192
I have often thought that a great vessel with all of its implications of figuration and function could be the perfect sculpture. The fully expanded form, the delicate surface, the aperture (access)-so sensual, sexual, and erotic-so abstract and really about everyday function and how it can be beautiful.
  Bodhisattva Maitreya
Thailand, Buriram Province, Prakhon Chai
8th century
Copper alloy with inlays of silver and black stone
H. 38 in. (96.5 cm); 1979.63

The bottle and the bronze: one practical, the other religious, are both invested with the deepest meaning and purpose.

I would like to see this artifact in opposition to the Maitreya. Both are so sculptural such fully expanded expressions. The Maitreya sets a standard of behavior. I think that is what gods do-that is their job. The bottle is less directive but has its own spirituality. The Maitreya I think is about thought and nature in equilibrium while coping with the contingencies of existence. This is how I would like to function in the world.

   Food Vessel: Gui
China, reportedly found in Shandong Province
Eastern Zhou period, about 6th century B.C.E.
H. 12 3/4 in. (32.4 cm) including cover, W. 15 1/2 in. (39.4 cm) across handles; 1979.103a-b

I assume these were used and I imagine they would have been set on a low table. Anyway, I would like to see it on the floor or at least set on a very low plinth to emphasize its relationship to architecture. Plus the dragon handles are great. Flip the lid and you have a plate-very grand but so practical. Conquer your fear, the world and eat.