Focus On: Vaughn Spann
Miami— September 1, 2022 — Vaughn Spann (American, b. 1992) is one of the breakout art stars in the past few years. His approach to creating art and his ingenuity garnered the Florida-born, Newark-based artist quick attention after he earned his MFA from the Yale School of Art in 2018. Since then, he has been making tracks in the art world with major shows and accomplishments coming one after the other.
Spann has taken an unusual approach to artmaking. Constantly shifting, Spann’s work evades definition and pushes boundaries with stunning paintings that vary from textured abstracts to surreal figurative paintings with two-headed subjects, and, at times, incorporating symbols such as the American flag and the letter X. Avoiding the temptation to settle on a narrow signature style, he follows an effort to liberate his practice from external constraints and allow himself to embrace and explore the complexities of life and of his own observations and ideas.
In both his abstractions—with their formal emphasis on line, color, and shape—and his uncanny figurations, Spann often begins with a personal framework, grounding his work in an experience or context that can open up to larger social and historical issues. The “Dalmatian Paintings,” for example, ostensibly evoke the false American dream. Having spent his youth in a New Jersey neighborhood surrounded by aggressive guard dogs, Spann began to see the dalmatian (to which he was primarily exposed through cartoons or movies) as a mark of luxury, stability, and an idea of American life that was for him, purely abstract. Formally, Spann’s Dalmatian paintings lend an animate agency to geometric abstractions and, in the process, invigorate color-field painting with life. The motif of dalmation spots or their circle variation, are placed side by side with blocks of color in contrasting tones. Spann also experiments with technique–For the Dalmatian series, he mixes sand and modeling paste in his paint that he applies with a palette knife in certain sections to create reliefs.
Since 2018, Spann has enjoyed solo exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Brussels, and Tokyo, among other cities. His work has been acquired by a growing list of institutions, including the Perez Art Museum Miami, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, UBS Art Collection and the Rubell Family Collection.
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Photo: Vaughn Spann with a 2019 work titled Marked Man. Photograph by Anthony Alvarez