“Three Rings 1,” a painting by Abby Shahn, is part of a new solo show at Speedwell Projects in Portland. Courtesy of Speedwell Projects

Abby Shahn turns 80 this year, so Speedwell Projects in Portland is using the occasion to take a comprehensive look at the varied career of one of Maine’s most enduring contemporary artists.

“Abby Shahn: 50 Years” is on view through May 9. It’s the largest solo show she’s had in 15 years. Shahn, who lives in Solon, enjoys art roots that go back to post-World War II New York. She grew up in Roosevelt, New Jersey, the daughter of artists, and moved to rural Maine in 1969.

“Green Man 1” by Abby Shahn. Courtesy of Speedwell Projects

She’s made abstract and figurative work in a variety of media for more than 50 years, as a painter, photographer, sculptor, bookmaker, printmaker and installation artist. The Speedwell exhibition includes handmade books, drawings, paintings, sculpture and a site-specific installation.

In whatever media, Shahn has often taken an activist approach, responding to injustices and speaking up for maligned people and places. In a catalog essay for the exhibition, Maine art critic Carl Little writes: “Such images stand among the most powerful visual responses to the world and its injustices of Shahn’s generation. She belongs in that distinguished group of protest artists that includes Nancy Spero, Leon Golub, Joan Jonas, Alan Magee, and Natasha Mayers, each one bringing an individual approach to conveying outrage, fear and loss.”

“Abby Shahn: 50 Years” through May 9, Speedwell Projects, 630 Forest Ave.; speedwellprojects.com


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