Magazine article Artforum International

Jim Speers: STARKWHITE

Magazine article Artforum International

Jim Speers: STARKWHITE

Article excerpt

Auckland's Karangahape Road (popularly "K Road") is the closest thing the city has to a gallery strip. But the street is also well known as Auckland's alternative shopping destination, a funky if decrepit alternative to the well-kept but generic city center. So it was entirely consistent with its context that "Crystal Spirit," Jim Speers's exhibition at Starkwhite, a K Road staple, alluded to the aesthetics of hipster clothing stores. With a set of large framed digital images screenprinted with text on the wall and a geometric decal spread across gleaming white vinyl flooring, Speers conflated the warehouse-style gallery with a warehouse-style boutique. Arguably more effective seen from the street through the building's large picture windows than from inside the room itself, the show nonetheless exerted a slick, seductive pull.

Whether or not the display's superficial attractiveness was supported by any underlying substance, however, is hard to decide. Speers, best known for abstract light boxes that evoke the Light-and-Space art of 1960s California, here eschewed his customary slabs of gently illuminated color for an array of enigmatic found images and short texts. Making use of material harvested from the Web, the fourteen posterlike sheets threw reference after reference in an apparent attempt to absorb the viewer in a game of association, but the seemingly arbitrary selections and juxtapositions were just as likely to alienate. Some panels featured a single image, others combined image or color with a quoted motto or title, and several made a link with the artist's previous work via color alone.

The group contained some intriguing choices, but determining the way in which the cut was made seemed impossible. A set of stripes in black, white, and primary colors, for example, hung next to a photo- graph of a field overlaid with the phrase KILL MAGICIANS in bright yellow letters, itself bordered by a rectangle of sky blue emblazoned with the name GEORGIA TURNER in sober navy. …

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