Stan Shellabarger’s performances, prints, and artist books are born from everyday activities – walking, breathing, writing – taken to extreme measures, as he accumulates massive amounts of marks, recording discrete units of time and space that amplify the traces that humans leave on the earth. Repetitive actions lead to extremely subtle marks emerging as visible artistic interventions into his chosen object (book, print, ball of twine). This work addresses issues relating to the body and its environs and employ predetermined alternative drawing methods that result in minimal abstract objects. For his fourth solo show at the gallery, Shellabarger presents a print installation, several new walking books, sculptural balls of twine, and a new photograph. The exhibition opens on Friday, October 24, with a public reception from 5 to 8pm and runs through December 6.
The centerpiece of this exhibition, both an homage to and a critique of Minimalist artist Carl Andre’s signature sculpture, “Plain”, was created by walking on a 6 x 6 foot square comprised of 36 cold-rolled steel plates, laid out to resemble the Andre piece, of which both the MCA and the Art Institute of Chicago each own a version. Shellabarger paced a serpentine path across the steel plates while wearing shoes affixed with heavy grit sandpaper to his soles. He then printed each plate like one would a drypoint print. The prints are assembled in order to recreate the path trod upon the plates, and is presented on a low pedestal just above the gallery floor.
Andre invites viewers to walk upon his sculptures so that they can register, on a sensory level, the feel of different materials (such as steel and aluminum) and the distinction between standing in the middle of a sculpture and remaining outside of its boundaries (1). Shellabarger takes this disruption several steps further. While viewers are encouraged to walk upon Andre’s sculptures, Shellabarger aggressively abrades the surface of his ersatz “Plain”, bringing into play elements of chance and romantic notions of gesture, anathemas to standard Minimalist aesthetics.
A new artist book captures marks and scratches made by the artist and his husband as they locked and unlocked the door to their apartment over the course of three years. Shellabarger will also present several “Walking Balls” in the show, balls of twine that are literally physical representations of time passed and a new photo documenting a discrete performance by Shellabarger, enacted when a new house was built across the street from his building. Shellabarger would pass by a wooden fence constructed on this property nearly every day, dragging sandpaper down the length of the fence, doing this twice a day, going and coming. The photograph captures the subtle line that began to emerge as a result of this activity, an act that was stopped once the owners stained the fence.
Stan Shellabarger’s most recent solo show at Western Exhibitions in 2011 was reviewed in The Chicago Tribune and Art Practical and works from that show were acquired by The Art Institute of Chicago, The Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Baltimore Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Canada and The Newark Public Library. His solo shows include a pine-needle installation at the Hyde Park Art Center, a 12 x 12 New Work/New Artists exhibition at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and he has been included in group shows at Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Nice, France; Minneapolis Institute of Art; inova in Milwaukee; the Chicago Cultural Center; University of Buffalo; and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. His work has been reviewed in Art in America, artforum.com, ArtUS, New City, and Artslant. Shellabarger received his MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and lives and works in Chicago.