Ben Estes, Alan Shields

Ben Estes, Alan Shields

On view by Alan Shields, an artist admired in his lifetime for his exuberance and authenticity, are several works made of acrylic painting on canvas tubing stretched over tall metal pipes. In 2016 Carter Ratcliff wrote of the pieces: “It may be that we’ll never come up with a satisfactory name for [Shields’] pipe and canvas works. That’s frustrating. Thinking depends on categories. Rather than linger over this frustration, however, it’s better to experience the power of these works to provide space with focus, and with their color patterns, to subtly inflect the spatial surround.” The artist’s titles, too—The Top is Not Here, Dreams in Colors, Ten Begin Again—toy with the limitations of naming: like nonsense verse or New York School poetry, they are both hyper-specific and open to wildness.

Ben Estes, a poet, editor, and artist, is exhibiting large paintings on paper. With Amish quilts, concrete poetry, and Quakerism as points of reference, the works channel written language through the ideographs of the heart and the checkerboard. For Estes, who recently moved from New York City to upstate New York, the heart symbol on social media became a prominent if not primary mode of connecting to friends in the city. The artist found himself integrating the hearts tapped on his phone into his paintings; what results are surreal structures of digital affirmations woven into the artist’s visual stream of poetics.

Ben Estes, Alan Shields

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