The Natural World
11 March - 28 March 1998
Jim Speers makes light boxes. A mainstay of advertising's persuasive arsenal, light box technology has engendered a plague of bus-stop backlits, cigarette-vending machines, and corporate signage: form follows function without friction or fuss. By contrast, Speers' pretty-vacant light boxes just sit there, beaming their colours and patterns as though still waiting for their lettering, their corporate assignments. They hold the space, lost in some no-man's land between that anonymous modern vernacular and an equally hygienic but pedigreed abstract-art language.
Speers chooses to describe these works by saying what they aren't: they are 'neither ordinary objects passing themselves off as art, nor works of art passing themselves off as everyday things'. His project rests on an ambivalence to both abstract art and corporate fixtures. His installations leave us stranded in the middle of nowhere like tourists not quite speaking the language, needing direction on how to read the directions. This is ironic, given that many of the codes Speers is plundering were devised for everyone and no one, offering guidance and instruction in thoroughfares like motels, fast-food franchises, departure lounges, and, of course, art galleries.
Speers' installations are arbitrary and promiscuous: minimal, gridded, graphic, and calligraphic designs coexist. Here, art is tainted by not-art, and vice versa: Dan Flavin eats at Burger King, Donald Judd makes airport art, a Kasimir Malevich doubles as a warning beacon. In his bewilderment Jim Speers lets visual affinities get the better of him, his overdetermined, dysfunctional products hinting at a secret history, some morphic resonance linking points remote in the culturescape.
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