RB Sprague studio work

Finished paintings and work in progress

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Location: Santa Fe

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Press Release for September Show


CONTACT: Joyce Robins
989.8795, 800.989.8795
info@joycerobins.com, www.joycerobins.com

R.B. Sprague compels viewers to create their
own stories in his provocative still life compositions.

When the mathematical formula for linear perspective was developed in Renaissance Italy, paintings suddenly became “windows” onto the world. Artists also added window motifs to their compositions to create not only the illusion of space and distance on a flat surface, but also metaphors for what was happening inside and out. Dutch genre painter Jan Vermeer, for example, used light pouring through a window as a symbol of intimacy and privacy, while American scene painter Edward Hopper positioned windows as dispassionate peepholes into American society.

Roger Sprague counts both Vermeer and Hopper in his pantheon of heroes, but says that his recent window paintings have no metaphorical meanings. “I am not a symbolist, and I’m not a realist, since all the elements within the painting are made up. The paintings are about geometry and repeated forms. Although I don’t like the term, the paintings are more surreal than real—you accept the elements visually, but intellectually you know that something is not quite right.”

That subtle, “not quite right” aspect of his paintings is what keeps viewers coming back to Sprague’s images. “People are intrigued by Roger’s scenarios, which in this show take place on a table in front of a window with a view of other windows. The ‘actors’ are fruit, slices of melon and paper bags,” says Joyce Robins, who hosts Sprague’s fourth solo exhibition at the gallery. “His permutations on a single motif never cease to amaze me!”

For Windows, Sprague offers a dozen works, each “framed” in a sash window with white molding. The window, with its slightly tattered shade, is viewed straight on. It might be closed, partially open and occasionally articulated by a blowing curtain. The backdrop of buildings outside is seen at a worm’s eye view looking up; while the tables inside are viewed with a bird’s eye view looking down. “The goal,” says Sprague, “is to design these illogical viewpoints so that they hold together and seem real even though they couldn’t be—like a dream.”

Sprague calls his still life objects “filler.” Viewers, however, cannot help but create their own narratives about a slice of watermelon that leaks moisture onto a doily, while a second slice basks in the sun on the windowsill. Or why the window’s brass half-moon lifter resembles the Freemason’s “all seeing eye.” Says Sprague, “it is human nature for people to create meaning where meaning doesn’t exist. I think it is just fine.”

Born in Buffalo, NY, Sprague was raised in Arkansas, going on to study plant science, architecture and painting in college. He received his BFA from the University of Oklahoma, Norman, which hosted a major retrospective of his work in 2001 at the Fred R. Jones Museum, followed by a 2005 retrospective at the Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock. Although he has lived in such diverse locations as Munich, Germany, and New York, NY, Sprague has been a resident of New Mexico since 1975 and of Santa Fe since 1979. To watch the show pieces develop, visit Sprague’s studio at www.rbspraque.blogspot.com.


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