Language, as we know, is flexible, continuously expanding. Current digital trends and text are developing entirely new vocabularies of symbols, images, and affectations for declaring opinions and emotions. In tandem, there are algorithms designed to track our browsing history, creating a tailor-made advertising landscape of desirable slogans and imagery. So, just as a coherent string of words creates a sentence, or several clicks creates data tracking, an assortment of visual qualities or even strategic marks can be combined to produce an image. This would imply that a similar logical or systematic approach could be used to produce paintings, but that these paintings will be subject to glitches or corruption — as are digital images, files, and even popular phrases. Is there a way to resist this degradation?
Jered Sprecher’s paintings seem to employ a form of camouflage as protection. By creating the appearance of inconsistencies, anomalies, and prefabricated layers of irregularity, they dissimulate the process of generation loss. Nearly 40 paintings, ranging in size from moderately large to an intimate scale, produced over the past five years, construct the exhibition “The Hollow That Echoes,” currently on view at Gallery Protocol in Gainesville, Florida, through May 29. Based in Knoxville, Sprecher received his MFA in 2002 from the University of Iowa. His painted methods of obstruction explore mixed and hybrid solutions. The various effects, operating like different types of compression artifacts, create spatial transformations, fragmented and symbolic shapes, and disordered patterns.
In larger works, such as Ghost or Silence, both from 2011, bold dominating shapes are combined with energized passages that challenge our perception of additive and subtractive processes. It is as if the substance of Ellsworth Kelly-esque shapes are in question. Are they truly intact and floating within the parameters of the image, or are they cut and hewn from the surface? By playing pick-up sticks with Daniel Buren’s calculated stripes, Sprecher is constructing a new architecture of abstraction, one where flat dimensions are able to transcend, and compression only seems to excavate new escape routes.
Regardless of scale, these works rely on the dominance of the presentation surface, a traditional aspect of painting. However, the edges of many of the smaller works seem to divulge secrets about the process of accumulation that rendered the top surface. They have exposed layers of materials, rough and uncovered sides, and stretched and unraveling trimmings. These edges imply that the camouflage process only protects the surface, but that the full object is still left vulnerable.
The presentation and display of the works at Gallery Protocol enhances the visual interplays already at work within the images. Behind Your Eyes, 2012, was hung between two of the gallery’s windows. This placement creates a correlation between the division of painted shapes and voids and the function of a window. Also, two larger paintings, Nature of Nature and Minding, both 2011, are situated side-by-side, creating the effect of double vision. By referencing perspectival space, they fabricate a situation where illusion conquers reality. The shifted high contrast colors seem to present two alternate endings, much like chapters in a Choose Your Own Adventure novel.
There is also a wall hung with a grid of 27 smaller works divided into seven columns and four rows. As a result of this arrangement, there is a void where a painting appears to be missing, lost, or un-archived. The vibrant colors and dramatic mark-making of the numerous paintings in this arrangement are eerily balanced by this solitary void. A strange affect is discerned when viewing these works; it seems that if you blink or become distracted, more of them may suddenly disappear into the open void. After viewing this exhibition, it was as if the presence of the works had burned an afterimage, where the gallery space functioned as the “hollow” and the paintings vibrated and echoed with an erratic pulse. These echoes resonate, repeating and carrying an original tone and vibration away from the source.
Currently an associate professor of painting at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Sprecher was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 2009 and, recently, was an artist in residence at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. “The Hollow That Echoes” contributes to Gallery Protocol’s mission to motivate contemporary arts culture on a local level as well as the greater North Florida region. Beyond exhibitions, Protocol has been developing multiple programs to support this mission, including an artist residency, selected summer sessions, a project space, and pop-up galleries.
Lily Kuonen is an assistant professor of art at Jacksonville University in Florida. She is a native of Arkansas, where she was born in the kitchen of her parent’s house.