In Search of Solitude
In Search of Solitude
David Castillo presents In Search of Solitude, Vaughn Spann’s third solo exhibition with the gallery.
In his powerfully evocative, painterly vocabulary, Spann synthesizes abstracted textures and forms into symbols, histories, and subjectivities that push against the boundaries of painting as a carrier of meaning. In Search of Solitude expands upon the artist’s approach and positions painting as a site of personal and collective contemplation. The richly textured surfaces of the artist’s works bear the gravity of his own introspections about the contemporary moment. And in an instance of respite, seclusion, and reflection, Spann invites his audience to confront the work with their own forms of meaning.
Spann’s formal compositions are charged with nuance. Treading between the real and the symbolic, the figurative and the abstract, and the private and public, Spann’s practice exists across highly layered vertices of symbol and signification. His works invent and redefine archetypal motifs, anchoring them formally to painterly convention as well as to experiences of daily life. Through them, he insinuates the fraught, unequal, and at times violent social realities that underlie life in the United States.
Spann locates himself at the center of his practice, drawing autobiographically from his experience. His paintings serve as sites of memorial and introspection, where he asks his viewer to reflect, remember, and empathize with those whose identities are marginalized within broader social structures. Spann mines the activist potentials of art through his practice. Many of his pieces commemorate specific events and causes, directly addressing histories and urgent issues through the visual and conceptual inflections of his work.
Representations of the X, rainbows, and other icons become a charged language in the context of Spann’s practice, imbuing his canvases with the legacies of meaning inherited from these symbols while complicating any familiar identifications a viewer might have to them. Resultantly, his works reinvent themselves across their audience, reflecting back to the viewer what they themselves bring to the work. Humanity’s power to create, transform, and rework meaning is at the center of Spann’s practice, wherein he hones-in on identifiable icons to audit the connotations imbued within them and pose questions about what they signify in the present moment. These works are localized to experiences and reflections in Spann’s life, but reverberate further, well beyond him, and speak to broader, universal human experiences.
Engaging with the power of monumentality, Spann amplifies the messages in his work at scale and questions the forms, methods, and norms of extant monuments and what it is they commemorate. He positions his works as contemporary examples recalling carved rock or sediment, at times suggesting a timeless permanence built up over millennia. While the work is new, the need for it has always been present.
In Search of Solitude proposes a moment of observance, alone or in unity, to reflect upon timeless yet highly personal histories and experiences that resonate loudly in our moment.
Vaughn Spann’s monumental work Rover was presented by the gallery in the Meridians sector of 2021 Art Basel Miami Beach, a work acquired at the fair by the Indianapolis Museum of Art for its important encyclopedic collection. That same year with support from the gallery, Spann’s works were presented in his first two museum solo exhibitions: Lineage, curated by Dr. Lisa Freiman at Bucknell University’s Samek Art Museum; and Open Onto, presented at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and curated by the institution’s Director of Curatorial Affairs Erin Dziedzic. Spann’s works are in the collection of institutions including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the High Museum of Art, the de la Cruz Museum, the UBS Art Collection, ICA Miami, the Rubell Museum, and many others in the US, Asia, and Europe.