Knockdown Center, New York, United States 02 Nov 2019 - 15 Dec 2019
James Allister Sprang, Concrete Color Arrangement (Cairn documented in Queens, NY 9/20/17), 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Knockdown Center
Knockdown Center presents James Allister Sprang: Fragment Scapes, the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York in gallery 1. The exhibition comprises two corresponding bodies of work: a selection of floor-based photo-sculptures made from both physical and photographed concrete infused with pigment, and a new series of cyanotypes that capture the imprints of intimate notes and memorabilia.
Informed by Sprang’s ongoing excavation of the intersections of recorded sound, photographic processes, and language, these bodies of work simultaneously serve as memorials and tributaries, and call into question limiting modes by which blackness is seen, perceived, and surveilled.
Employing processes of transmission and translation, strategies of abstraction, and materials that allude to urban space, Sprang’s Concrete Color Arrangements point to the ways in which black bodies are surveilled and rendered flat. To create this body of photo-sculptures, the artist infuses cement with superabundant amounts of pigment that cause large slabs of concrete to become structurally unsound. Once cured, Sprang stands on the brittle slabs and they crack under his feet, creating fragments from which he builds stacked mounds that resemble modest, temporary, monuments or cairns. The artist then photographs the concrete arrangements from above using surveillance optics that evacuate the mounds of vertical dimension, rendering them flat. The photographs are presented horizontally on low concrete slabs in various stages of physical decay that recall the ones documented, evoking sites of memorial.
The artist will also present a new body of cyanotypes which extend the material analogy that Concrete Color Arrangements elicit. Implementing a photographic method that is a technical inverse to the surveillance lens, the cameraless cyanotype process inherently renders objects flat. Here, the lens, camera, and enlarger are absent. Instead, notes and citations from Sprang’s musings on ancestry and generational trauma are placed onto a photosensitive surface and exposed to direct sunlight. The cyanotype documents the degrees of transparency and opacity of these intimate items against a brilliant blue background. This body of work, in part a dedication to the poetry of blue, propose opacity as a strategy to eschew the limitations of capture, and signal the abundance contained within the things that go unseen.
About the Artist
James Allister Sprang is a first-generation Caribbean-American and creates work that exists in gallery spaces, theater spaces and the space generally found between the ears. Working across mediums—photography, sound, performance, installation—Sprang’s work is best understood as an investigation of poetics, performance, gesture and their documentation. This work is informed by the black radical tradition.