Swiss Institute (SI) is delighted to present Centinel, the first institutional solo show in the United States by New York-based artist Jasper Spicero (b. 1990, Yankton, SD). Spicero’s multifaceted installations are aesthetically unified by a subdued, bluish palette, and often include craft objects such as hand-beaded jewelry and crocheted doilies, in combination with answering machines, webcams and other electronics from the recent past. At SI, Spicero has created a new site-specific environment designed to conjure a scholastic setting, suffused with themes of containment, secrecy and flight. The installation evokes scenes from the artist’s new moving image work, Centinel (2019), which is screened on a monitor in the space.
Recently, Spicero discovered a collection of music and poetry in an online trance music forum that was made by a school friend who passed away in 2009. This serves as the starting point for Centinel. The military associations with the friend’s username, DJ Sentinel, as well as themes of addiction, recovery and family trauma, inspired the artist to create a surreal soap-operatic narrative video work. In the pastoral surroundings of Marydell Faith and Life Center in Nyack, NY, characters dressed in American Civil War era dress play scenes of surreal and ambiguous family conflict. Arguing over the installation of a new security system, the characters attempt to free themselves and each other from re-enacting cycles of the past, as they move between moments of melodrama, dread and velveteen sadness. The narrative is interspersed with footage of a handbell ensemble at Visions at Selis Manor, a center for the blind in Manhattan, who perform using vibrating wristbands programmed to a score. They are accompanied by “angels” who appear to communicate between the two settings using glowing flip phones.
Throughout the gallery are new sculptures featuring characters and themes from the video. Several of the sculptures hide or disguise other elements, such as works that combine collapsible chairs with wooden inlay portraits and an assemblage including concealment furniture, a specialist type of design in which firearms can be hidden. They are adorned with smaller objects and imagery consistent within Spicero’s work: flightless birds and butterflies, delicate garments, and architectural elements that highlight the accessibility and inaccessibility of others’ experiences.
On the occasion of Centinel, Spicero has produced a soundtrack to the exhibition in an edition of 100. The numbered and signed CDs come with an insert designed by the artist that folds out into a double-sided poster.
Centinel marks the continuation of a long-term dialogue between Spicero and SI Director Simon Castets with Serpentine Galleries Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist as part of their 89plus research project. Previously they curated exhibitions of Spicero’s work at LUMA Westbau, Zürich and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
About Jasper Spicero
Jasper Spicero (b. 1990, Yankton, South Dakota) lives and works in New York. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Mother Culture, Los Angeles (2018); Times Square Space, New York (2018); LUMA Westbau, Zürich (as part of Americans 2017, 2017); and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (as part of Co-Workers – Network as Artist, 2015). He has had duo-exhibitions with Alex Dolan at Important Projects, Oakland (2013) and with Win McCarthy at The Rudolph Steiner Bookstore, New York (2018).
Jasper would like to give special thanks to Lauren Alice Avery, Jerome Simon, Mojo Watt Williams, Strayhorn Krueger, Wills Baker, Anna Ignatenko, Alan, Peter Griffiths, Angel Naranjo, Ariel Vik Maxwell and Lois Vik.
SI gratefully acknowledges the support of the Centinel Exhibition Circle: DM Office, Tiffany Zabludowicz, and those who wish to remain anonymous. In-kind exhibition support provided by NJ Concealment Furniture.
SI Programming is made possible in part with public funds from Pro Helvetia, Swiss Arts Council; the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Main sponsors include LUMA Foundation and Friends of SI. SI gratefully acknowledges UBS as Benefector, Swiss Re as SI ONSITE Partner, Vitra as Design Partner, and SWISS as Travel Partner.
Mojdeh Pishyar, email@example.com