John Sparagana’s exhibition What the Child Saw, What the Lover Saw, What the Killer Saw features a new body of work made from the actual pages of current fashion and cultural magazines such as Pop, 10, L’Officiel, Self Service, Another Magazine, and Interview. The laborious nature of the work evident in his previous series of hand-fatigued magazines titled “Sleeping Beauty” is still present, however the images are now meticulously sliced and ingeniously rearranged — stretching into the realm of abstraction. The resulting images are at once confusing and provocative.
“The images that form the raw material of John Sparagana’s work are so much a part of our mediascape, the glamorous and yet banal hieroglyphs of airports and billboards, that we don’t even see them. We look not so much at them as through them. And yet, of course–precisely because they paper our waking hours, secretly reproduce in our mailboxes, and sidle their way onto our bedsides–they are all we see. It’s as if we could only live our desire–only recognize it as our desire–through the mediating agency of these fetishes and obsessions, these intense little theaters of longing and attitude that tell you at one and the same time what you are and what you’ll never be.
Sparagana’s relationship to these images is complicated, to say the least. His work is not out to redeem them, exactly, by making us see them as if for the first time, thereby breaking through the automated, habituated, consumerist fog in which such images envelope us. Nor is it, however, ironic or bored, as if calling our attention to the discrepancy between what these images promise and what they deliver, returning us to the ecstasy of pure surface and the bliss of existential vacancy.
…We might describe Sparagana’s work as operating in the services of a kind of emergence that tries, through the recursive application of a tightly controlled process or logic, to release from these images some as yet unknown property, another reality of dimensionality that they harbor, so to speak, without knowing it…it’s as if the image has been forced to sample and remix itself, and we are left to wonder whether or not the result has been carried out against the original image’s wishes.”
– excerpted from text on John Sparagana’s work by Cary Wolfe September 2006. Wolfe is Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie Professor of English at Rice University and has written widely on critical theory, American literature, and contemporary culture. He is currently completing a book called What Is Posthumanism? John Sparagana (American b. NY 1958) splits his time between Chicago and Houston teaching at Rice University where he has been on faculty since 1989. He is currently working on a new book in collaboration the well-known cultural critic and theorist Mieke Bal, Professor of Theory of Literature and founding director of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). The book features 26 critical essays by Bal responding to 26 images from Sparagana’s “Sleeping Beauty” series to be published by the University of Chicago Press in Fall 2007. His work is discussed and illustrated in Permissions, A Survival Guide: Blunt Talk about Art as Intellectual Property by Susan M. Bielstein, published by the University of Chicago Press, 2006. His work was recently acquired by The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. Sparagana will have a solo exhibition at Priska C. Juschka Fine Art NY in 2007. This is his first solo exhibition at moniquemeloche.