Almine Rech Shanghai is pleased to present Pups!, Vaughn Spann's third solo exhibition with the gallery, and his first in China.
“Spots! Inspirational,” purs Cruella de Vil when she first sees a Dalmatian coat. Its vivid pattern is a mesmerizing abstraction for her, something to be cut and draped and hemmed. Not the skin of a dignified animal but a modish fur. Vaughn Spann’s Dalmatian paintings, in contrast, lend an animate agency to geometric abstractions and, in the process, enervate color-field painting with life. In lieu of fashion’s flatness, Spann gives us depth of personality. Instead of following traditional hierarchies, he wags art history’s tail.
These paintings are not of dogs, strictly speaking, any more than Spann is a painter of strictly abstract tendencies. “I’m an abstractionist at heart,” he says, though his past works range from the highly figurative – such as Parisian Girls (2019), depicting a pair of chicly dressed conjoined twins embracing their matching dalmatians – to pop symbolism in the vein of Jasper Johns, as in his Untitled (Flag) (2019) and Marked Man series (2020). That admission suggests a certain dedication to the painterly mark and an engagement with surface on a fine granular level. “The individual mark is important,” Spann tells me, affirming that he thinks about each part as seriously as the whole. To that end, for Dalmatians, he has mixed sand and modeling paste in his paint, which he applies with a palette knife in certain sections to create reliefs. These spots require a lot of patience and dexterity. Their viscous medium recalls the early experiments of Cubism, while Spann cites as inspiration Agnes Martin and Stanley Whitney – artists who, like him, understood the slow power of the grid.
- Evan Moffitt, writer and critic