On Exhibit: Charles Spurrier's sticky fingers | Calendar | Chicago Reader

On Exhibit: Charles Spurrier's sticky fingers 

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There's something endearingly obsessive about Charles Spurrier's art. For one work, he chewed a variety of different kinds of gum, often mixing one or more colors in his mouth--using his palate as a kind of palette--and then flattened them into overlapping disks. The splendidly multicolored result produces a humorous surprise when one realizes what it's made from. For other works, Spurrier chewed a sculptural compound and then made assemblages of small pieces that still show his teeth marks.

There are also panels with dozens of Spurrier's fingerprints, made by dipping his fingers in pigment and pressing them on Scotch tape. He says he used to make pieces entirely out of clear tape but got "tired of trying to keep everything so clean." He hopes viewers find humor in the present pieces that "go out of control in the opposite direction."

Spurrier says one reason he doesn't use titles is to encourage viewers to find "their own points of entry to the work." For him these works "deal with certain aspects of the body." The transparent tape pieces, with nothing but more layers of tape beneath their surfaces, might suggest human skin.

Spurrier's fingers are wider than the tape, so we mostly see fingerprint fragments. "I like the way it's cut off," he says. "It shows where the different pieces of tape start and stop." The works are thus partly about the nature of their materials and the process of their making. But allusions to process and repetitions in his works might also make viewers more aware of their own repetitive acts: "How many times you chew your food, how many steps you take in a walk, or how many times you breathe in an hour." He thinks of other ordinary activities--"using a piece of tape or fixing something or putting on a Band-Aid or picking a piece of gum from the bottom of your seat at a theater"--and would like to rescue these actions from our customary unawareness. Spurrier aims for one of the best effects that art can have: "We see a Cezanne painting and we're never able to see an orange sitting on a table in the same way we did before."

Sixteen recent works by Charles Spurrier are on view at the gallery Feigen Incorporated, 742 N. Wells, through April 22. Gallery hours are 10 to 6 Tuesday through Friday and 11 to 6 Saturday. Call 787-0500 for more.

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