Art: Sculpture of The Absurd

Joel Shapiro brings uncanny expressiveness to human form

The small but choice show -- only 26 pieces -- of the sculpture of the New York City artist Joel Shapiro, 48, now at the Baltimore Museum of Art, reminds one of what odd twists can come out of supposedly settled styles. Shapiro has always been vaguely connected in peoples' minds with early-1970s New York minimalism. And yet, although his work in some ways coincides with that movement, it has little to do with it. It is idiosyncratic, emotionally concentrated and mostly quite small in scale: everything minimalism was not.

Shapiro first earned attention in the '70s with pieces that reversed...

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