You don't need installation art if you own a Charles Spurrier, for his complex, rationally assembled brain teasers, now on view at Margaret Thatcher Projects, Feb. 16-Mar. 24, 2012, pack more punch in a small wall space than the best and most complex environments by Chris Burden and Jason Rhoades -- the highest praise indeed.
In such a fashion does Charles redeem the importance, in every new and better piece that he makes in his workshop right next to Pierogi Gallery in Williamsburg, of visual art that you can hold in your hand. Charles is a quiet fellow from Cleveland, a Yale MFA, a survivor of heart disease, a grandpa with pierced ears, and a baseball fan. I have been following his career for 20 years, since his first show of black inner-tube meditations at Caren Golden Gallery (when it was in SoHo) and a major solo exhibition at Tim Nye's Thread Waxing Space.
I have curated Spurrier in a show, and he has given me a couple of works on special occasions, such as the loving couples piece, which I am marveling at right now, that he made on paper with a soldering iron (!) for my second marriage. So I am biased (I love Charles' brilliant artist wife Mary and brilliant artist daughter Carter as much as I love him), but let me tell you something -- every art follower deserves to know one magician, and Charles Spurrier is mine.
His new work at Thatcher -- longtime protector of abstract prestidigitators -- is so intricately assembled that, I swear, one of them appears to be made from the remains of a Lionel train set. And yet, where is Charles' career, huh? He has survived just about all the galleries that represented him (which are now closed) and was, frankly, lucky to get the show at Thatcher. And vice versa. He has no money and has scrambled to make a living, by teaching a semester at Dartmouth and many other places.
The stuff Spurrier assembles mostly comes from the street, dumpsters and yard sales. What he used to do with crates of those air fresheners which hang over the dashboards of Brooklyn for-hire limousines would take your breath away. So go to his show now and buy something and maybe Charles Spurrier will give you a peek into the lab of his sorcery.
“Charles Spurrier,” Feb. 16-Mar. 24, 2012, Margaret Thatcher Projects, 539 West 23rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).