Historical Journal

Journal Archives,Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Archives,Reviews

Judith Shea: New Sculptures

March 7, 1986
Judith Stein

A writer and curator, studied at Barnard College, and has a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Eye of the Sixties, Richard Bellamy and the Transformation of Modern Art, (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016). Her curatorial projects include Red Grooms, A Retrospective, for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and The Figurative Fifties, New York School Figurative Expressionism, co-curated with Paul Schimmel. Her exhibition, I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin, traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1995, and earned a best catalogue award from AICA/USA. Her articles, interviews and reviews have appeared in Art in America, Art News, and The New York Times Book Review, as well as on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air and Morning Edition. Among her honors is a Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant; a Pew Fellowship for literary non-fiction; and a Lannan Foundation writing residency in Marfa, Texas.

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" As her work evolved from low relief to fully three dimensional forms, Shea began to work in bronze."

March 7 through April 20, 1986
Judith Shea was born in 1948 in Philadelphia and attended The Annunciation School, Havertown. She has a degree in Fashion Design from the Parsons School of Design, N.Y. (1969) and earned her B.F.A. in 1975 from Parsons and The New School for Social Research.
For the past twelve years, Judith Shea has maintained a unique focus on clothing as the form and content of her art. If clothes “make” the man (or woman), as her work seems to posit, then what is the potential of uninhabited garments as a metaphor for human experience? But it would be limiting to plumb her images solely for their narrative content. Shea is as concerned with the literal structure of clothing as she is with its capacity for meaning.
Recently critic Stephen Westfall cited Shea, among others, as “presiding over an ironically Minimalist influenced American renaissance of figurative sculpture.” Shea’s formal and unornamented constructions, coupled with the significance of the concept to her work, align her with such unlikely colleagues as Robert Grosvenor. It was of course not Minimalism but the Pattern and Decoration movement that first brought Shea to critical attention. Her early work, which emphasized the profile of sleeves or the cut of a neckline, suggested unassembled pattern pieces. Shifting from such dressy stuffs as organza and taffeta, the artist later worked with canvas linen, creating shaped bodices with rich, gestural painted surfaces. As her work evolved from low relief to fully three dimensional forms, Shea began to work in bronze.
While the formal references in her earlier work touched on the world of fashion and the actual construction of clothing, Shea’s latest pieces are more likely to evoke such art historical personages as the Winged Victory or an Egyptian statue. In these new sculptures her surfaces often have multiple readings as skin, fabric, and bronze. In addition to the palpable presence of the human body, her work manifests the rough, visible seams of fabrication. In Shea’s view, some commentators on her recent work went overboard in only deciphering a narrative intent in pieces that juxtaposed two figural garments. Thus her current images often include a geometric shape placed in proximity to the figure, thereby aiding a more formal interpretation of the coupled segments.
Good Girl (1985) is the first of Shea’s sculptures to include the body and not just its intimation. Here two vertical legs form the logical connection between slippers and skirt. Regarded by the artist as a self-portrait, Good Girl has a haunting presence bespeaking its formal clout and rich associative content.
Judith Stein
Associate Curator and
Coordinator, Morris Gallery
All works are courtesy of Willard Gallery, N.Y., unless otherwise noted.
1. Good Girl, 1985
Bronze, 53 x 14 x 11″
Courtesy of Ron and Linda Daitz
2. Untitled, 1985
Bronze, iron, limestone
38 x 17-1/2 x 29″
3. Abstraction and Empathy,1985
Bronze, steel 9 x 21-1/2 x 19-1/2″
4. New Man,1986
Bronze, Human scale
5. Spin Trinity, 1985
Bronze, Human scale
6. Custom Angel, 1985
Wax, cloth, wood
75 x 23 x 23 1/2″
7. Maquette for Stecklow Garden, 1985
Bronze, 12 x 4-1/2 x 6″
8. Shelf Piece, 1983
Wool felt, wood, wax
13 x 26 x 11″
9. Plumbline, 1983
Wool felt, casein, wood, 30 x 13-1/2 x 71/2 ”
10-14. Five drawings, all untitled, 1985
Graphite, colored pencil, 26 x 19″

One-Person Exhibitions
Judith Shea/Robert Moscowitz, Hayden Gallery, MIT, Cambridge, MA and Knight Gallery, Chapel Hill, NC. Catalogue, essay by Katy Kline and interview with the artist.
Willard Gallery, New York City.
Willard Gallery, New York City.
Dart Gallery, Chicago.
Sculpture as Clothing, 80 Washington Square East Galleries, New York University, New York City. Catalogue, interview with the artist by Dale McConathy.
Willard Gallery, New York City
Willard Gallery, New York City
481, The Woman’s Center Gallery, New Haven, CT
The Clocktower, Institute for Art and Urban Resources, New York City

Group Exhibitions (selected)
Special Project Room, P.S. 1, Long Island City, N.Y.
Affiliations: Recent Sculpture and Its Antecedents, The Whitney Museum, Stamford, Conn.
Body and Soul: Recent Figurative Sculpture, The Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati, 0H. Catalogue.
Artist in the Theater, Hillwood Art Gallery, Long Island University, C.W. Post Campus, NY
Art and Use, Milwaukee Art Museum, WI
Judith Shea/Nick Vaughn, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Catalogue, text by Marge Goldwater.
Four Sculptors: Ritual and Artifact, Zabriskie Gallery, New York City. Catalogue, text by James L. Reinish
Staged /Stages, Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, New York City
1984 – A Preview, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York City
Directions 1983, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC. Catalogue, text by Phyllis Rosenzweig.
Day In/Day Out: Ordinary Life as a Source of Art, Freedman Gallery, Albright College, Reading, PA. Catalogue, text by Carter Ratcliff.
The New Sculpture, Hamilton Gallery, New York City.
The Sixth Day: A Survey of Recent Figurative Sculpture, Bergman Gallery, The Renaissance Society, The University of Chicago. Catalogue, text by Richard Flood.
Artist/ Critic, White Columns, New York City.
Sculpture Now, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Catalogue, text by the artist.
Art and Use (Currents 4), Milwaukee Art Museum, WI. Catalogue, text by Russell Bowman.
Willard Gallery, New York City.
By The Sea, Barbara Toll Fine Arts, New York City.
Views by Women Artists: Polychromed Sculpture, organized by the New York Chapter of the Women’s Caucus for Art, Lever House, New York City. Catalogue.
Painting and Sculpture Today 1982, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Ind. Catalogue, text by Robert Yassin.
Energism, Arthur Roger Gallery, New Orleans, La.
1981 Biennial Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City. Catalogue, text by John Hanhardt, Barbara Haskell, Richard Marshall, and Patterson Sims.
Summer Pleasures, Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York City.
Transformations: Women in Art 70s-80s, organized by the New York Feminist Art Institute, New York Coliseum, New York City. Catalogue.
The Soft Land/II Soffice Paese, Palazzo Farnese, Ortona, Italy. Catalogue.
Figuratively Sculpting, P.S. 1, The Institute for Art and Urban Resources, Long Island City, N.Y.
Parafunction, Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York City.
Art Materialized: Selections from The Fabric Workshop, organized by Independent Curators Inc., New York City; circulated to The New Gallery for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH; Gibbs Art Gallery, Charleston, SC.; The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY; University of South Florida Art Galleries, Tampa; The Art Museum and Galleries, California State University, Long Beach; Alberta College of Art Gallery, Calgary, Canada; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO; and Pensacola Museum of Art, FL. Catalogue, texts by Sarah McFadden and Carter Ratcliff.
Fabric into ART, Amelie A. Wallace Gallery, S.U.N.Y., College at Old Westbury, N.Y. Catalogue, essay by Harriet Senie.
Seven Artists, Neuberger Museum, S.U.N.Y., College at Purchase, N.Y. Catalogue, text on Shea by Richard Flood.
Regalia, Henry Street Settlement, New York City. Audrey Strohl Gallery, Memphis, Tenn.
Clothing Constructions: An Exhibition of Artists Who Make Clothes, Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art.
Material Pleasures: The Fabric Workshop at ICA, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; circulated to Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Catalogue, text by Michael Quigley.
Summertime, Droll/Kobert Gallery, New York City. Marian Locks Gallery, Philadelphia.
Willard Gallery, New York City. “The Fabric Workshop,” William Patterson College, Wayne, NJ.
Collection in Progress: 200 or So Selections from the Collection of Milton Brutten and Helen Herrick, Moore College of Art, Philadelphia. Catalogue, interview with the collectors by Dianne Perry Vanderlip.
Miami Beach Festival of the Arts.
Rooms, P.S. 1, The Institute for Art and Urban Resources, Long Island City, NY. Catalogue.
The Handwrought Object 1776-1976,” The Herbert F Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Catalogue, text by Nancy Press.
Making Clothes, Artpark, Lewiston, N.Y. Catalogue.
Untailored Clothing, Artpark, Lewiston, N.Y.

Selected Bibliography
Greenwood, Susan. “Artist Constructs Clothes that Allow the Fabric to Flow,” Niagara Gazette, August 14, 1975.
McConathy, Dale. “Clothes (That Become You),” Art-Rite, Spring 1976.
Schwartz, Barbara. “New York Sculpture and Craft,” Craft Horizons, August 1976, p. 49.
Askey, Ruth. “Clothing Constructions,” Artweek, June 16, 1979.
Muchnic, Suzanne. “Two Shows: From Trivial to Trenchant,” Los Angeles Times, June 1979.
Anderson, Alexandra. “Painting by the Yard,” Soho Weekly News, June 28, 1979.
Flood, Richard. “Material Pleasures: The Fabric Workshop at ICA,” Artforum,
October 1979, pp. 74-76.
Rickey, Carrie. “Art of the Whole Cloth,” Art in America, November 1979, pp. 72-83.
Raynor, Vivien. “Art: Two Women Take Crafts to Higher Plane,” New York Times, June 27,1980.
Haskell, Barbara. “New Faces/New Images,” Ocular, Summer 1980.
Nadelman, Cynthia. “New York Reviews: Fabric into Art,” Art News, September 1980, pp. 244-247.
Cohen, Ronny H. “Judith Shea at Willard Gallery,” Art in America, October 1980, p. 179.
Silverthorne, Jeanne. “Reviews: Judith Shea,” Artforum, October 1980, pp. 81-82.
Larson, Kay. “Sculpting Figuratively,” New York magazine, November 16, 1981.
Siegel, Jeanne. “Figuratively Sculpting P.S. 1,” Art Express, March 1982.
Van Wagner, Judith K. “Judith Shea: Willard Gallery,” Art-Press, May-June 1982.
Stein, Judith. “The Artists’ New Clothes,” Portfolio magazine, January/ February 1983, pp. 63-66.
Bernard, April. “Vanity Fair Notes,” Vanity Fair, May 1983.
Levin, Kim. “Top Forms,” Village Voice, May 24, 1983, pp. 84-85.
Gessner, Liz. “Apparel Art,” Gentleman’s Quarterly, May 1983.
Liebmann, Lisa. “Judith Shea,” Artforum, September 1983, p. 70.
Lichtenstein, Therese. “Artist/ Critic,” Arts, November 1983, p. 40.
Koplos, J. “Garment Form as Image,” Fiber Arts, November/December 1983
Cohen, Ronny H. “Reviews: Judith Shea,” Artforum, February 1985, pp. 84-85.
Westfall, Stephen. “Judith Shea at Willard,” Art in America, March 1985, p. 158.
Gill, Susan. Exhibition review, Art News, April 1985.
Saunders, Wade. “An Interview with 10 Sculptors,” Art in America, November 1985.
Articles by Judith Shea
“Sources,” an interview, Extra, April/May 1978.
“Style: The Art of Clothing,” Craft Horizons, October 1978, p. 22.
“The Original Clothes,” Extra! Extra Spring, 1979.
“Beyond Fashion: Mariano Fortuny,” Art in America, November 1982, pp. 25-29.
“Valentino,” Artforum, December 1982 (book review), p. 69.
Costume Designs for Dance and Theatre
New Berlin Dances, Rosalind Newman and Dancers, European tour, 1976
The Coast, a play by Ted Greenwald, Trisha Brown Studio, New York City, 1978
City Junket, a play by Kenward Elmslie, Eye and Ear Theatre Company, St. Clement’s Theatre, New York City, 1980 (in collaboration with Red Grooms)
Opal Loop, Trisha Brown Dance Company, New York City, 1980
4 Plays by Edwin Denby, Eye and Ear Theatre Company, New York City, 1981
Son of Gone Fishin, Trisha Brown Dance Company, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, 1981
The Madness of the Day by Maurice Blanchot, La Mama ETC, New York City, 1982
The Patience of Socrates, an opera by Georg Philipp Telemann, Soho Baroque Opera Company, New York City, 1982
The Morris Gallery displays the work of outstanding contemporary artists with a connection to Philadelphia, determined by birth, schooling, or residence. The exhibitions are chosen by a committee composed of area artists, museum personnel, and collectors, and the curatorial staff of the Academy. Currently serving on the Morris Gallery Exhibition Committee are: Cynthia Carlson, Bill Freeland, Dr. Helen Herrick, Jay Richardson Massey, Cheryl McClenney, John Moore, Elizabeth Osborne, Eileen Rosenau, Mark Rosenthal; Academy staff Judith Stein, Morris Gallery Coordinator, Frank Goodyear, Jr., Linda Bantel, Kathleen Foster, Betty Romanella; and Academy students Ed Lewis and Anna Yates.
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