New York

Charles Spurrier

Thread Waxing Gallery

Charles Spurrier adopts the role of artist as mender. He “paints” with the components of a first-aid kit, mapping stitchlike segments of thin black thread and gobs of pigmented petroleum jelly on sheets of translucent tape. His protoplasmic forms, muted variations on the glomming red biomorph in The Blob, 1958, have appeared on gallery walls in billboard-size reliefs.

In his most recent show, Spurrier displayed smaller-scale, obsessively crafted examples of his tape-and-jelly pieces along with kitschy allover abstractions made of well-chewed bubble gum on board. Some of Spurrier’s vinyl squares appeared to be cast deep in the shadows of Agnes Martin’s evanescent grids; other pieces proved to have a closer affinity with the inventions of Joe Zucker, or, more obliquely, Kiki Smith’s body-conscious paper pieces. Spurrier’s two nubbly, chewed-gum fantasies (one made from a luridly colored sculptural compound) recalled Janine Antoni’s “gnaw” pieces.

For all the art-smart quotation, Spurrier effectively imparts his own cultural code to a bottom-line Minimalist esthetic, breaking up its pristine surfaces with thumbprints, ink blots, and tooth marks. From the transcendental, Greenbergian grid, Spurrier extracts something personal, tactile, and distinctly contemporary.

In a double-paneled rectangle framed in steel, overlapping clear tape formed a subtle horizontal pattern on which the artist superimposed disconnected lines of black thread. In another piece, a scatter of sticky, bronzecolored Vaseline sperm, mounted on the wall behind a pane of clear glass, swam like candied paramecia under the lens of a microscope. Footprintlike echoes explored the surface of a smoky celluloid checkerboard work, its tiny inked verticals tracing the otherwise barely perceptible edges of the tape. In the largest piece, Spurrier’s dark fingerprints formed a painterly repeating pattern set off by mustard-yellow highlights on the taped field. Another framed structure was comprised primarily of duct tape overlaid in a looping abstraction of intersecting lines.

Spurrier gets a lot of visual mileage from investing formalist elements with touches of the irrational. His phantom grids and inky, random gestures underscored the tactility of his Vaseline-coated surfaces, lending cold-blooded forms a human warmth.

Linda Yablonsky