Shields, Alan

The American artist Alan Shields created vibrant collages from scraps of cloth, thread, even pipe cleaners, stained with acrylic and attached to unstretched canvas. Their zany titles, which culminated in Searching for Lollipops in the Hippie Vortex (2000), recall the atmosphere of the 1960s, as do their glowing, sometimes psychedelic colors. Yet Shields did not actually make much of an impact until the very last gasp of that decade, with a show in 1969 at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York, and he remained until the end an idiosyncratic figure, difficult to classify or stereotype.

After his success with Paula Cooper – with whom he continued to exhibit throughout his career – he found himself in demand across the country. His work entered major collections – including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and the Museum of Modern Art in New York – and received considerable critical attention. His rejection of oil paint; his interest in the traditionally female techniques of stitching and sewing; and, most crucially, his apparent indifference to the art market, had a remarkable result: the price of his works soared.