New York

Nancy Spero

A different kind of involvement is demanded of the viewer in NANCY SPERO’s work. Using collage and poster techniques, Spero attempts to prod one into political consciousnesss through art.

Bold silkscreened letters parade across a newsprint banner—“Screw Coporate Art” and “Ars Sine Scientia Nihil Est.” Declarative statements which empty out their content through advertisement, reminding one of the glibness acquired through repetition of antiwar slogans. In other pieces, Spero scatters her bizarre drawings of heads with phallic tongues and perverse sexual relations among her collection of pithy phrases. One reads the works as fragmented journals, anecdotal snatches of thought each hinting at its political implications. The tiny gilded drawings refer one back to medieval manuscripts as illustrations for the text, while the printed letters reinsert the today of newspaper headlines and protest posters. However, the artistic design of the placement of the visual and verbal symbols on the page vitiates their impact. They become ideas on which to hang art instead of statements valid in and of themselves. Only in the large Hours of the Night do the disparate elements begin to punctuate the whole as attempted articulations within the prevailing blankness of the paper. But even here the stridency of the words diminishes into pictorialism as their graphic features assume importance, and the provocation of the imagery reverts to amusing story-telling through its illustrative function. One recognizes the force that is missing in Spero’s collages in the brutality conveyed by a printed description of torture included in the show. The words carry a meaning which Spero’s visualizations do not. And one begins to see her works as a trivialization of a pain which is real.

Susan Heinemann