The Portraits of Sylvia Shap: Explorations and Revelations

Ed Ruscha 1985  Oil on panel  59 1/2" x 39 1/2"  Courtesy of the Artist
Ed Ruscha
Oil on panel
59 1/2″ x 39 1/2″
Courtesy of the Artist

January 11-April 9, 2011

Ariadni A. Liokatis, Curator

A portrait painter, Sylvia Shap has been engaged in the practice of realistic contemporary portraiture for the past 40 years. The exhibition “The Portraits of Sylvia Shap: Explorations and Revelations” will feature 50 portraits exposing the artist’s stylistic evolution in the context of the past four decades, from large scale to powerful diminutive works, including drawings, oil paintings and mixed media works. A number of works, including five new paintings, never exhibited before, will be included in the exhibition.

Shap learned to draw and paint as a child under the tutelage of her brother Ron, an accomplished artist himself. While Shap’s early work displays a conventional take on traditional realistic portraiture, the artist has developed a unique style of portraiture that captures and conveys the essence, psychology, and character of her subjects in an inimitable manner. Sitters’ figures are set against a colored backdrop devoid of any elements, their demeanor and facial expression revealing much about their inner beings. The color chosen by the artist in each painting’s background is a reflection of the personality and energy of the sitter. Family portraits reveal insights as to the psychological dynamics between the different members of the group. Shap also depicts body parts, such as hands and eyes, that tell a story.

The subjects of her works belong to all walks of life, ranging from the conservative to the non-conformist, from members of her family (her mother, her brother), to personalities such as Peter Norton, Rupert Murdoch, Henry Mancini, Jacques Pepin, Ed Ruscha, and Victoria Principal, art patrons, doctors, models, religious figures, to unknown individuals came upon through a chance encounter–during a trip to Asia for instance.