“One of the defining memories from my childhood involves standing beside my grandfather hunched at his workbench in the back of his small electronic shop in Jerusalem watching him take apart a toaster and put it back together again, hopeful to learn something and make it better. I remember thinking: ‘I want to do that, too,’ and I decided then and there that I was going to be an artist like my grandfather.”
Aithan Shapira’s paintings and prints are the result of taking the natural world apart and putting it back together confronting all perspectives. His works are characterized by his attention to light as a solid often blocking other objects from view and an expansive palette of yellows ranging from desert to golden sun, honey, urine and bile that he makes symbolically from mixing oils and waxes with soil from Israel and olive branch ashes. Shapira’s subject matter tackles conflicting fields of view, whether simultaneously addressing two sides of a wall or matters of migration or of false hope. Just as the tone in which something is said can alter its meaning, Shapira assembles contradictions inverting depths of field, juxtaposing velvety inflections against grittier passages, and shifting fields of view to ask us to consider the malleability in which the same object can take on vastly different meanings. His simplified shapes and patterns serve to condense his perceptual attentiveness into poetic representations with tight compositions.
Born to Israeli parents in America and frequenting his father’s fabric pattern cutting factory for nearly thirty years, Shapira’s life has always encompassed multiple viewpoints— some inhered and some lived (time spent with an Aboriginal tribe in Australia). He received MFAs in both Painting (Boston University) and Printmaking (Royal College of Art) and has exhibited at the Royal Academy, London; Museo de Arte Popular, Oaxaca, Mexico; Aqua Fair, Art Basel, FL, USA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia; Seattle Art Museum Gallery, WA, USA. His work is in collections at the Royal Academy, London; Alfond Collection at Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College; and Ben Uri Gallery, London. Shapira’s most recent suite of work on Architecture, Light and Nature and the shapes that form at their juncture have evolved from previous suites on patterns in nature, Light and Other Shapes, and site-specific, 30-ft painted arches for Kehillat Yaar Ramot Synagogue in Jerusalem as well as concrete cactus walls he created for a collaboration at RED Gallery, London that were featured in the Jerusalem Post (2013). Shapira held residencies at Milton Avery’s studio in Gloucester, MA, at Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem, and in Oaxaca, Mexico. He is the recipient of the Man Group Drawing Prize, Daler-Rowney Prize for Drawing, and Blanche E. Colman Award for Painting, and gave a TED Talk on multiple perspectives in 2012. His exhibition Hope centers on the subject of a concrete life buoy and features 5,000 sq. ft. of his work being first displayed at the Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, FL. , May-July, 2015.
Shapira currently lives with his wife and dog and works in a studio in Boston. He teaches at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and gives an intensive drawing course at MIT.