Charles Green Shaw 2013 Exhibition

Peyton Wright is pleased to announce Idioms, the Gallery’s premiere exhibition of paintings by Charles Green Shaw (1892-1974). Over the course of a long career in the arts, Shaw was a vocal and prolific proponent of American abstract painting, and according to New York Times art critic Roberta Smith, “a peripatetic, multitasking insider-outsider who pledged allegiance to Modernism but also played the field.”

Shaw graduated from Yale in 1914 and completed a year of architectural studies at Columbia University. A native of New York City, Shaw initially worked as a journalist for publications like The New Yorker and Vanity Fair; it wasn’t until an extended stay in Europe in the 1920s, when he was exposed to the work of Arp, Braque, Picasso, and others, that he decided to devote his energies exclusively to painting.

When he returned to New York, Shaw aspired to paint works informed by this distinctively European, modernist sensibility, and he dubbed the semi-cubist compositions he made during this period, based on New York City architecture, “plastic polygons.” Shaw’s work was the subject of a solo exhibition at Valentine Gallery in 1934, and in 1935, Albert Gallatin organized a show of his paintings at the Gallery of Living Art. In 1936, along with Josef Albers and others, Shaw founded the American Abstract Artist Association in New York City, a group that paved the way for Abstract Expressionism and included Louise Bourgeois, Piet Mondrian, and Ad Reinhardt, among many others.

Idioms consists primarily of paintings from the 1960s and 1970s. Reductive and bold, they reference Shaw’s hard-edged style of the 1930s while incorporating aspects of 1960s Minimalism. The works included employ a closely unified palette—oftentimes just two or three colors; in many, areas of subtle texture engage the viewer and heighten compositional contrast. Circular shapes and motifs are repeated across many of the canvases, and polygons also dominate; rendered in jagged or spoked iterations they inject a singularly deliberate dynamism.

The work of Charles Green Shaw is featured in the collections of major American museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; the San Francisco Museum of Art; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and many others.

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About the Artist
(1892 - 1974)
During his successful painting career, which spanned four decades of modernism, Charles Green Shaw skillfully explored several abstract idioms. A native New Yorker, Shaw’s early work was in writing; in the 1920s he contributed to publications including the New Yorker and Vanity Fair. During travels to Europe from 1929 to 1932, he gained first-hand experience with new developments in modern art, and began to devote himself to painting. By 1940, Shaw had developed the idea of the “plastic polygon,” a pictorial structure based on simplified architectonic and organic shapes combined with a Cubist grid. Shaw worked with variants of this concept in painting and in wood relief constructions. With the exception of a few depictions of simplified, angular figures in the late 1940s, Shaw’s work remained essentially nonrepresentational for the rest of his career.

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