Joel Shapiro Untitled 1988

  • Not on view

Configuring rectilinear blocks and beams in ways that suggest figures in motion, Joel Shapiro creates sculptures that animate the cool, reductive forms of Minimalism. After first constructing miniature houses, chairs, and other objects in the 1970s, he began making his signature large-scale sculptures in wood and bronze in the early 1980s.

Shapiro's first prints were etched fingerprints, made in 1970 at the New York Graphic Workshop. He has worked intermittently in printmaking ever since, completing more than fifty editions in collaboration with several New York publishers, who encouraged him to try his hand at the different techniques available at various local workshops. Among others, these include lithographs at Derrière L'Étoile Studios, screenprints at Simca Print Artists, aquatints with Aldo Crommelynck, and etchings with Maurice Payne.

Shapiro first explored the woodcut technique in 1985 at Universal Limited Art Editions, where he used printing blocks that were not carved but rather assembled using fragments taken from a dollhouse. The work shown here is one of several woodcuts that Shapiro subsequently produced at The Grenfell Press. Devoid of the expressionist style and content most commonly associated with woodcuts, it demonstrates the flexibility of the technique to embrace different artistic approaches. Created from three separate blocks cut into simple rectangular shapes, this print emphasizes contrasting grains of different wood veneers. By retaining the scalloped edges that were left after the shapes were gouged from larger blocks, Shapiro underscores the literal presence of these sculpturelike elements and leaves a tangible reminder of his physical process. He also brings a sculptor's instinctive feel for spatial relationships to the final composition, in which the slightly skewed blocks seem to shift forward and backward within the generous margins of the paper.

Publication excerpt from an essay by Starr Figura, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 191.
composition: 11 15/16 x 27 1/16" (30.4 x 68.7 cm); sheet: 18 3/4 x 39 1/16" (47 x 99.2 cm)
The Grenfell Press, New York
The Grenfell Press, New York
Arnold Smoller Fund
Object number
© 2023 Joel Shapiro / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Drawings and Prints

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].