Windows and Screens: Meredyth Sparks
The Arts Club of Chicago is pleased to announce Meredyth Sparks’ first solo exhibition in Chicago. Sparks (b. 1972) is best known for layering materials like glitter, vinyl, and aluminum foil over images drawn from pop culture and the historical avant-garde. At The Arts Club, she will exhibit new and defining works from an ongoing series of photo-based collages entitled Extraction. They combine decorative or outmoded textiles with found photographs of mundane domestic objects like window frames and lattice screens. The exhibition will be on view from 23 January through 4 May 2013. An open house and catalogue signing will take place on Saturday 23 March 2013from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm; the artist will give a gallery talk at 1:00 pm.
Since 2010, Sparks has been engaged in a project of simplification and distillation. Having come into her own with a body of work that pitted diverse characters of 1970s pop and political culture like David Bowie or the Baader-Meinhof activist Gudrun Ensslin against icons of art history like Kazimir Malevich, Sparks began to excise forms from what had become a cacophonous field. She has explained that the idea of “extraction” begins “by taking away from an image or object, while also in its very realization, intimating what remains.” Cut-and-paste had always been central to her collage-based practice, but the acts of separation and reconstitution now became essential. At the same time, Sparks’ imagery shifted from things known through celebrity and fandom to things known through familiarity and use. The resulting works stitch together enlarged found photographs of household objects, which are digitally printed on canvas and then carefully cut away from their settings, with expanses of decorative fabric and small patches of illusionistic painting. The patterns of the fabric then act as predetermined surfaces that fill the dimensions of the missing room, while the painted areas assert the artist’s presence.
Sparks is deeply indebted both to the historical avant-garde and to feminist practice. Her labor-intensive acts of cutting and sewing, choice of ornate fabrics like toile, and uncanny ability to make something almost beautiful, but not quite, tie her to a tradition of women’s work that was defined in the 1970s. She thinks deeply about how to renew that feminist impulse by engaging the radical interventions of the early 20th century. The radiator motif that helped launch the Extraction series harkens back to the generating love machine of Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass, as it converts liquid water into steam heat. Sparks further nods to Duchamp’s glass construction through the motif of the window—which in this case, comes with tacky blinds or encasements fitted for a basement. The transparency here occurs not in the glass, but in literal gaps between the fabric where Sparks has allowed a view through to the stretcher bars and supporting wall. In this way, she opens a space of meaning behind the picture plane, while mimicking the revelation of interiority suggested by the structure of household things.