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 Daniel (Dan) Shapiro  (1920 - 1982)

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Lived/Active: New York/Vermont/California      Known for: painting, printmaking, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Daniel (Dan) Shapiro (1920-1982)

Painter, Printmaker, Teacher

Dan Shapiro was an eloquent and inventive painter, printmaker and teacher with an unwavering commitment to making art.  Throughout his life he explored a diverse range of imagery techniques and processes.   As a Professor of Art  at the University of California at Davis for close to a quarter century, his work, ideas and personality had a strong impact on  a whole generation of  artists who passed through that department,

Born in New York in 1920 he studied at Cooper Union receiving a certificate, with honors in painting and design, in 1941.  After a brief stint in the army he found employment as a free-lance designer of record album covers.  At this same time he became obsessed with printmaking to the point of investing in materials to build a small press in his apartment where he began to teach himself the art of making prints.

From 1947-1957 he was on the art faculty at Bennington College in Vermont as a professor of printmaking and painting.  In 1957 he returned to New York.  He became fascinated at this time with the innovative printmaking that was taking place at Stanley William Hayter's Atelier 17 in New York, and printmaking was to remain his main artistic concern until the early 1960s.

After a brief stint teaching at Columbia University he moved to California where he joined the faculty at UC Davis teaching there until illness ended his career in 1982.  The 1960s were a time of remarkable growth at Davis and Dan was part of what developed into a well-known and respected art department.

 In 1962 Shapiro was inspired by the beauty of banal objects and influenced by DADA began a group of assemblages using what he called “contemporary artifacts” or found objects.  Using objects such as old clothes, shoes, cans, ropes etc he transformed them into an archaeology of our times.  He made a series of prints during this period using similarly found items.
Shapiro's prints were shown widely at this time, including exhibitions at the Library of Congress and at the San Francisco Museum of Art (with Claire Falkenstein).

In the early 1960s Shapiro's interests began to turn back to painting and in 1963 he was awarded a MacDowell Fellowship.  During his month-long stay at the New Hampshire Colony he produced the "Haiku" series of paintings.  Shapiro had always been interested in the spontaneous gesture in art, and his parallel interests in poetry and Asian calligraphy, as well no doubt as the chance to create a body of work in an uninterrupted environment, led to this series.

Shapiro exhibited widely in the 1960s, often in the company of fellow UC Davis faculty members Robert Arneson, Wayne Thiebaud, William Wiley, Manuel Neri, Roy DeForest and others.  He also had solos shows at the San Francisco Museum of Art, in 1967, and at Rice University, Houston, in 1968.  Dividing his time between San Francisco and Davis, Shapiro painted a small, occasional group of works with sporadic text intertwined with vigorous gestural painting.

In the mid to late 60s and early 70s he began to  explore modular concepts using biomorphic forms and various figure-ground arrangements and color combinations in paintings.  He continued to exhibit widely at both the Cellini and Arleigh Galleries in San Francisco, the EB Crocker Art Gallery (now the Crocker Museum) in Sacramento and the 1970 Expo (San Francisco Exhibition) in Osaka Japan.

In 1972, the artist became seriously ill.  His new physical and spiritual realities shifted his artistic style once again.  With a heightened awareness of his art, life and surroundings, his work found influence in the natural environment.  He returned to printmaking and also began a series of paintings entitled “Sacramento Seascapes.  These led to watercolors and a continuing flow and union of form and mood.  His art became more reflective and calligraphic.

His final works, over 100 small paper collages were done in the last year of his life from his hospital bed and wheel chair.  He never stopped searching for ideas and enlightenment nor did he ever lessen his commitment to art.

Dan Shapiro, born 1920 in New York City, died 1982 in Palo Alto.

Cooper Union Art School, honors in painting & design 1941
Columbia University, 1944-46

Bennington College, 1947-57
Columbia University, 1957-59
UC Davis, 1959-82

Selected Exhibitions:
1940 & 1941  Cooper Union Art School
1942  Brooklyn Society of Artists
1944  Oakland Art Gallery
1945 & 1946  Library of Congress
1945 & 1946  Municipal Art Gallery, Jackson, Mississippi
1946  Seattle Art Museum
1946  Tribune Art Club
1952  Peter Cooper Gallery (solo)
1963  Library of Congress, 'National Exhibition of Prints'
1963  University of California, San Francisco (solo)
1963  San Francisco Museum of Art (showing embossed prints with Claire Falkenstein & Dennis Beall)
1964-65  Cellini Gallery, San Francisco (with Robert Arneson and others)
1965  Cellini Gallery (solo)
1967  San Francisco Museum of Art (solo)
1968  Rice University, Houston (solo)
1969  Art in the Embassies program
1970  Arleigh Gallery, San Francisco (retrospective)
1970  Expo '70, The San Francisco Exhibition, Osaka, Japan
1971  UC Davis (with fellow faculty members Robert Arneson, Manuel Neri, WIlliam Wiley, Wayne Thiebaud, Roy DeForest & others)
1975  EB Crocker Art Gallery, Sacramento (solo)
1983  Kala Institute, Berkeley
1984  UC Davis

Selected Collections:
San Francisco Museum of Art
De Young Museum, San Francisco
The Oakland Museum
Howard University (mural)
San Francsico Art Institute
Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento
UC Davis

Selected Awards:
1961  Printmaking, San Francisco Art Institute Annual
1963  Printmaking, Ohio University, National Print Show
1963  Printmaking, Olivet College, National Print Show
1963  MacDowell Colony Fellowship
1965  Painting, San Francisco Art Institute Annual
1965-66, 1969-70  Fellow, Institute of Creative Arts, University of California
1980  Senior Fullbright-Hays Grant for Korea

Information provided by Abby Shapiro, the artist's daughter

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