Saint Louis Art Museum presents 'Buzz Spector: Alterations'

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Saint Louis Art Museum presents 'Buzz Spector: Alterations'
Buzz Spector, American, born 1948; “Unpacking my Library” (detail), 1995; 4-color offset accordion-fold artists’ book; 4 x 144 inches; Buzz Spector and Njara Stout 2020.186; © Buzz Spector, image courtesy of the artist.

ST. LOUIS, MO.- The Saint Louis Art Museum is presenting “Buzz Spector: Alterations,” a solo exhibition that spans more than 40 years of the artist’s works on paper. It opened Nov. 20 in Galleries 234 and 235.

Buzz Spector (born 1948) is a conceptual artist who explores the aesthetic possibilities of language, paper and books. A master at tearing paper, he brings a constructive energy to that otherwise destructive act. Sometimes he alters found books by methodically tearing their pages. At other times, he creates his own blocks of printed texts or images that he also transforms by tearing. Through this refashioning of printed materials, he poses questions about authorship, the history of art, and the written word.

Works on view in the exhibition range from early drawings presaging his torn-paper process to altered books, postcard collages and Spector’s multifaceted exploration of the author and literature.

Taking cues from Marcel Duchamp and Marcel Broodthaers—two influential 20th-century artists whose careers shaped the course of contemporary art—Spector draws from art historical precedents and adapts borrowed materials, injecting poetic humor and philosophical musings along the way.

Examples of Spector’s creative use of appropriation include “Waterfalls,” wherein postcards are arranged to show three images of a renowned 17th-century sculpture of a urinating boy whose natural “fountain” seems to feed into a tall cascade of images of rushing water. His “Altered LeWitt,” literally an artist’s book by Sol LeWitt that has been systematically torn and reassembled by Spector, is a sly and ultimately respectful homage to a fellow artist. LeWitt’s engagement with systems, language, and printed books was crucial to Spector’s development.

Spector is internationally recognized for his contributions to the field of contemporary art. He taught painting, sculpture, and two-dimensional design at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis for a decade before retiring in 2019. This is the first presentation of the artist’s work at a St. Louis museum.

“Buzz Spector: Alterations” is curated by Gretchen L. Wagner, the former Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow for Prints, Drawings and Photographs; and Elizabeth Wyckoff, curator of prints, drawings and photographs; with Andrea Ferber, research assistant for prints, drawings and photographs. It will be on view through May 31.

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