Mindy Shapero claims her work is “narrative-based.” If so, that narrative is so hermetic you can’t access it. What’s plainly out in the open, however, is the retinal blast of color and texture she packs into much of what does. Shapero is another in a long, seemingly endless line of dot-meisters. As Donald Kuspit quoted Jennifer Bartlett saying, “When in doubt, dot.” Shapero makes wholes by accumulating thousands of parts. She’s part of a postmodern tradition of combining post-impressionism, abstract expressionism, surrealism, pop, and minimalism. Fortunately, she has a strong streak of high priestess.
For her New York debut, Shapero offers, among other works, four large drawings. Each is a rudimentary mask or face cobbled together from thousands of painted strokes or bits of painted paper. The titles are annoyingly long and directive. One begins “Ghosthead guide that will bring you to the Ghostland god, you can only visualize the guide when you have entered a Monsterhead, and you first have to be . . .” Well, you get the picture. Yet Shapero’s tactility and visual intensity give these mixed-media drawings a mesmerizing jolt. They become totemic spirits watching us as we move through the exhibition. This saves the work from Shapero’s overdetermined narrative. That her work connects to Lucas Samaras, Atsuko Tanaka, and Yayoi Kusama isn’t bad either.
She also relates to Jim Lambie. This is notable in five large sculptures on hand. Constructed from paper and other materials, one is a large pile of what looks like striped spaghetti; another is a black burr or boulder atop three stilt-like poles; a third is a rainbow-colored stratified pyramid with little clumps on it. However they’re supposed to fit into Shapero’s narrative, the good part is that the sculptures are like matter organizing itself into other life-forms or states of ecstatic consciousness.
These analogues to life coupled with her amazing feel for color and materials save Shapero from being just another fun visionary. They allow her work to probe deeper recesses. All she has to do is get more ambitious and stop trying to lead us around with her titles.