'Duet' with Sherman Sam and Nancy Shaver

18 Jan-29 Feb 2024

London WC1H 0DS


MAMOTH is thrilled to announce Duet, a two-person show featuring the works of American artist Nancy Shaver and London-based Singaporean artist Sherman Sam, on view from January 18th to February 29th, 2024. 
Bringing together the artists’ paintings and sculpture, Duet considers the potentialities of material beyond the role of conventional narrative. Contrasting redefinition with resistance, the exhibition parallels the artists’ explorative and unbounded approaches in developing personal modes of meaning.
Nancy Shaver’s career spans over four decades of critical enquiry through the ordinary, unpretentious materials and objects at the core of her work. The artist’s practice originated with photography - compelled by daily observations of rural, working-class Upstate New York, Shaver went on ‘junking’ expeditions to take pictures of abandoned items found on the city’s streets. Her fascination with the discarded T-shirts, dishevelled bookcases and re-photographed photos from the early 20th century infused magic into her framing of unexpected encounter as a form of Still Life - a journey that over time has transitioned into sculpture as an extension of her artistic expression and technique. Shaver’s assemblages of altered objects create pathways for discovery through their sharp combinations of painted paper, found furnishings and antique textile. Several works in Duet exemplify her recent process of covering blocks of wood in fabric repurposed from used clothing, their interplays of colour, texture and form both describing and expanding upon the world. Assorted Fabrics (2023) finds connections between batik, flannel, African prints and Flashe acrylic, arranged into patchwork compositions that dismiss distinctions between mass culture, craft, and fine art, underlining the boundaries dividing these categories, and their permeability. She stacks cobalt chunks of wood inside a larger case in Blue Face Box (2023), contemplating utility and decoration. The resulting bodies of work, often categorised as Blockers, Boxes, Spacers or Sentinels, hint at the narrative potential of materials while remaining ambiguously coded for individual consumption.
Sherman Sam is also a maker of entities, viewing his paintings more as objects than as pictures. Sam’s works somewhat counter predominant narrative ideas by resisting an idea as it forms; beginning with the mark his mind makes, rather than imposing the image in his mind on the mark-making; it is the gesture that leads, fleshing itself out with an organic fluidity devoid of perceptual agenda. The artist paints in the flow of his living space, with television and music an ongoing soundtrack and frequent source of naming, with the works in Duet named after disco classics of the 1970s. Sam’s process begins with one large sheet of plywood, which he cuts down into irregular pieces, sanding and priming the surface of each. Working with a joyous colour palette of oil paints, his technique often starts with a single gesture or simple repeated shape. Every mark has equal value in this unpremeditated process, and each painting takes time to reveal itself - Le Freak, C’est Chic (2021) gently dots and drips its way into a multilayered landscape - the streaming blue of Disco Inferno (2021) is boldly balanced by a punctuation of urgent red. Any arising perceptible images are unintentional, and at most, suggestive. Sam’s craft is an improvised evolution formed from many years of embracing change; his creative philosophy centres on cooperating with his abilities and inclinations, allowing elements from different points in time to inspire fresh actions in older works, creating a sense of cross-pollination and liberating the work to become what the artist describes as ‘a slow slide into inevitable imperfection.’