Just opened at Swiss Institute, artist Jasper Spicero marks his first institutional solo exhibition with a selection of new sculptures and video that continues the artist’s investigation of sculptural modes, states and perceptions of time, and the attendant moments of subverted memory and time caused by digital timelines and narratives.
The show, titled Centinel, begins from a particularly personal moment. In the past several years, Spicero discovered a collection of music and poetry in an online trance music forum made by a school friend who had passed away in 2009. The artist’s subsequent revisiting of their relationship, and the trace of his friend’s time online turned towards a series of sculptures and a central video, drawing on themes of addiction, recovery and family trauma. The video, a surreal soap-operatic narrative, takes place at the 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 sadness. Mixing this together with interspersed musical performances and strange embellishments, the artist’s piece seems to twist intense experience into a distended narrative arc, one in which tensions rarely resolve, and new traumas seem to lurk beneath the surface.
The piece is accompanied by a series of new sculptures featuring characters and themes from the video, complex overlaid physical materials and elements that explore similar narrative structures to the actions on-screen. Spicero seems to enjoy leaving narratives buried under the skin, echoing out from its hidden vantage points to add color and nuance to the work at large. For the artist, the question of accessibility is always foregrounded, underscoring the inherently challenging nature of the other, and the compounded experiences of lived human experience that become increasingly prominent problems in the interconnected digital sphere. In Spicero’s sculptures, these concepts are given new exercise through their sculpture arrangements. One piece includes an assemblage including concealment furniture, a specialist type of design in which firearms can be hidden, underscoring a sense of buried danger or conflict. Other elements of the work are adorned with smaller objects and imagery consistent within Spicero’s work: flightless birds and butterflies, delicate garments, and architectural elements.
Throughout, the sense of a narrative beyond the viewer’s comprehension grounds the exhibition. In the face of globalized events, shared experiences over immensely distributed groups of people, and the micro-communities burgeoning online, Spicero seems to invite a comfort with narratives extending beyond those we can see or understand, favoring instead a sense of empathy and openness.
The show closes April 7th.
— D. Creahan
Jasper Spicero: Centinel [Exhibition Site]