New York based artist Kate Berger will give an artist talk at the Menil Drawing Institute February 17 to discuss his work: richly toned works on paper and paintings known for their exquisitely smooth lines, spatial complexity, and attention to paint saturation. Two of Shepherd’s works are currently on display in “Spatial awareness: drawings from the permanent collection of the Menil Drawing Institutewhich runs until March 13.
But here at Rice, a new mural of Shepherd has joined the university permanent collection of public art. “Tricycle Red, Pelican Gray etc., partial octagons” was installed for a week in December in the lobby of McNair Hall at the Jones Graduate School of Business.
It is Shepherd’s first permanent mural in a public space and a significant acquisition by a living female artist whose work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States and Europe since 1994. Shepherd’s work is also part of the Museum’s permanent collections. of Fine Arts, Houston, the Menil Collection, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York.
“Tricycle Red, Pelican Gray etc., partial octagons” joins the work of other prominent artists whose wall designs have been installed on campus, including Sol LeWitt at the Glasscock School for Continuing Studies and, more recently, the Ganzeer murals at the Baker Institute for Public Policy. As the title suggests, shepherd’s piece features a striking assemblage of red and gray panels inspired by the octagonal rotunda of McNair Hall and the reddish hues of St. Joe’s brick buildings on campus.
Shepherd was commissioned to create the mural by the Jones School as part of the Rice Public Art Collection, and worked closely with Frauke Josenhans, curator at the Moody Center for the Arts.
“Hopefully we’ve been successful in activating space,” Shepherd said. “I think the mission statement was so clear, and it was inspiring to do the same.”
The resulting artwork greets those entering the Jones School at a pivotal point on campus, directly across from the Student Center and Central Quad.
“The mission statement was to activate the space with something that felt architectural and colorful, very lively and something to really welcome people entering with a great sense of complication and joy,” Shepherd said.
The soaring Jones School rotunda is a bold architectural statement, the artist said, making it an obvious reference for his own work. Trained in both fine art and architecture, her work often illuminates the inherent visual relationships between form and space.
“It was really fortuitous, because I always like to work on something in space and as inspiration, and also kind of partner with architecture,” Shepherd said.
In his paintings and works on paper, Shepherd layers a matrix of delicate lines over chromatic and plane fields that seem to create three-dimensional spaces. Highly saturated layers of paint – she prefers Benjamin Moore – create a shiny, almost reflective surface. Despite the minimal means and clean forms, his works work on an emotional level, the large flat areas of color exuding an almost hypnotic power.
“I think it creates space within space,” Josenhans said of “Tricycle Red, Pelican Grey, etc., partial octagons.” Indeed, it almost feels like you can walk into the wall itself, with the planes creating room shapes before your eyes.
“And there’s something quite amazing about the fact that this is his first permanent public play,” Josenhans said. “It’s very exciting, and we’re extremely honored to have Kate Shepherd’s work here on campus where everyone can enjoy it.”