Suffused with energy, at odds with abstraction
By Cate McQuaid, Globe Correspondent
September 27, 2011
You wouldn’t know it from looking at his apparently abstract canvases, but Jered Sprecher paints objects. Gemstones, flint knives, and Tupperware have all been inspirations. But his approach to painting, evident in his exhibit “Als Ick Kan’’ at Steven Zevitas Gallery, is not representation. The object is a taking-off point, a structure he can prod and perhaps explode with his painterly techniques. The results are dense, vital, and refreshingly cockeyed.
The exhibition’s title refers to a phrase found on some of Jan van Eyck’s works; it means “as best I can.’’ Van Eyck’s best had to do with portraying the illusion of reality - space, volume, light. Sprecher works toward an entirely different end.
Most of the time, it’s impossible to recognize what he was painting in the first place. In the jagged, startling “Affinity,’’ it looks as if the artist has taken scissors to a garishly colored abstract expressionist work, cut it into shards, and hung it drifting among sharp white angular banners. There’s a sense of space - the center recedes at top and bottom, but in a graphic-art kind of way, with triangles of color spiking into the picture plane. The brittle white sections break up the luscious, gaudy brush strokes in an almost obscene way, like redacted text.
The smudgy, atmospheric yellow-green ground of the small painting “Inside’’ might depict vapors at a toxic waste site. Over that, Sprecher outlines long, horizontal parallelograms, suggesting shelving. Between and around these, he paints a curtain of orange stripes. The parallelograms act as windows to the more expressionistic background, but they also hint at three-dimensional space, carved out of the flat stripes.
None of Sprecher’s paintings look alike. They might have been painted by different artists. They do share a nuanced viewing experience, and a decidedly fractious tone that arises from layering a variety of techniques in a manner that almost pits paint against picture. In the end, that opposition shakes out abstraction in a rough, uneasy way, full of unresolved, potent energy.