Alan Shields and Ladd Brothers in New Shows at Parrish

Alan Shields was a central figure in the New York art world during the 1970s
Stevie” by the Ladd Brothers is one of the works in the Parrish Art Museum exhibition based on their experiences in Catholic school.

Two new exhibitions, “Alan Shields: In Motion” and “Steven and William Ladd: Mary Queen of the Universe,” will open at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill on Sunday and remain on view through Jan. 19. The Ladd Brothers’ show will open with a live performance by the artists Sunday morning at 11.

Alan Shields, who lived on Shelter Island until his death in 2005, was a central figure in the New York art world during the 1970s. His early works extended the parameters of painting by taking the canvas off the stretcher, weaving strips of canvas, ornamenting them with beads and other materials, and hanging them directly on the wall.

Shields left New York for Shelter Island in 1971, while Steven and William Ladd were born in St. Louis in 1977 and 1978, respectively. Despite working at different times and in different contexts, materials such as beads, belts, fabrics, and textiles figure in both Shields’s and the Ladd brothers’ work, and performance is an element common to both.

The Ladds began their careers in jewelry and handbag design and production, and the show, which includes sculpture, drawings, and prints, reflects their ongoing blurring of the boundaries between design and fashion, fine art and craft. The core of the exhibition is a series of 12 large sculptures, each consisting of 24 handmade, densely packed boxes, installed on the walls in their own individual grids.

According to the Ladds, “The works for this exhibition are based on our shared experiences as brothers at a small Catholic grade school called Mary Queen of the Universe. During that time our family managed to take one out-of-state vacation. We were four kids and two adults in a station wagon and the highlight was a stop in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Chocolate became the title for one of twelve large works on exhibition. The landscape is made of various chocolate colored trimmings rolled into scrolls, and the surface of the scrolls is embellished with found trinkets, crystals, and gemstones.”

Sunday morning’s performance is titled “Faith.” During the 20-minute silent program, the Ladds will transform one of their largest tower sculptures, also called “Faith,” by separating the 36 stacked boxes and arranging them on the floor to reveal interiors packed with dark-green scrolls, black-beaded trees, glowing glass flames, and handcrafted brass ants. After the performance, they will discuss how their shared childhood memories formed the basis of their work.

Collaboration is central to the Ladds’ practice. As part of a new artist-in-residence initiative at the museum, they will lead more than 1,000 East End students in a four-week art program that connects such concepts as the use of recycled and repurposed materials, creative collaboration, and storytelling through art. Students will tour the exhibition, learn how the artists make and use scrolls, and make a group installation and an individual scroll to keep.

Participating schools include Southampton public schools, Tuckahoe Common School, Bridgehampton School, Project MOST, the Shinnecock Indian Education Program, Bridgehampton Childcare and Recreation Center, East Hampton Learning Center.

The Alan Shields show, which includes works from private collections and the artist’s estate, focuses on the theme of motion, particularly as it relates to dance. According to Jill Brienza, the guest curator of the exhibition, it will be the first show to explore movement and interaction in Shields’s work.

“Maze,” Shields’s largest and most ambitious piece, which dates from 1981-1982, is the cornerstone of the show. Constructed of acrylic and thread on canvas, cotton belting, Velcro, and aluminum pipe, “Maze” is at once a sculpture, a room, and a performance space approximately 18 feet square and more than 7 feet tall. Viewers are encouraged to walk over, under, around, and through the piece.

The exhibition will also include video, sound, wearable pieces, and a selection of rarely seen stop-frame animation works. “Devil, Devil, Love,” a large lattice piece from the museum’s permanent collection, will also be on view, as will two other large-scale sculptures, “Dance Bag” and “Ajax.”

A dance performance by the Stephan Petronio company, which was choreographed with “Maze” as the set, will take place on Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. A question-and-answer session with Mr. Petronio and interactive tours led by the dancers will take place after the 20-minute performance. Additional performances will happen at one-hour intervals on Nov. 8, between 1 and 4 p.m.

Ms. Brienza, a curator, producer, and writer who organized a traveling show, “Alan Shields: A Survey,” will lead a gallery tour of the exhibition on Nov. 2 at 11 a.m.

Alan Shields’s “Maze,” which he constructed from 1981 to 1982, is a blend of acrylic and thread on canvas, cotton belting, Velcro, and aluminum pipe, formed to make an 18-foot-square environment.