Stephen Sprouse was a dud when he was alive, and now, in a historical show of his ratty, derivative designs at Deitch Projects' Wooster Street space, he's a dead dud.
Sprouse was forever stealing not-very-interesting motifs from such as Rudi Gernreich and Jean-Michel Basquiat, dumbing them down in cheap fabric and then pretending that he thought up everything himself. A typical Women's Wear Daily article in the 1980s would trumpet a Sprouse show or boutique only to follow up with a smaller piece a few months later reporting that nothing sold, the backers went bankrupt and the space closed.
Repeated failure only encouraged Sprouse to flash his simian mug for the paparazzi and sucker in new backers for another ugly project, and ugly is "the mot juste" for the so-called museum-style show at Deitch. All the smudge Sprouse touches are here: the "Warhol" imitation silkscreens of woofers (on speakers) that resemble hemorrhoids, the pathetic images of Iggy Pop crucified, mannequins sporting Sprouse's signature witchlike black wigs.
Feel the fabric of the exhibited frocks, a muddy mix of camouflage and plaid, as it crumbles in your hand, for the condition of the Deitch dresses is deteriorated. I don't know why, since no one ever wore them. Nevertheless, if you are a mediocre artist with no self-respect and obnoxiousness in spades, this show is a must. You, too, can be a star and have a famous dealer rummage through Salvation Army stores for your crap, after you die.
"Stephen Sprouse, Rock on Mars," Jan. 9-Feb. 28, 2009, at Deitch Projects, 18 Wooster Street, New York, N.Y. 10013
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).