Tucked Away in Plain Sight

Josh Sperling created an exhibition to showcase in the lobby of the SCAD Museum of Art. It is on view from January 27 to June 5, 2023.


Kate Lacivita

3/8/20233 min read

When first walking into the SCAD museum, you are greeted by a large lobby filled with bright, natural light bouncing off white walls and transparent glass. To the right a few strides inside, you will see two large, colorful paintings by Josh Sperling, apart of the exhibition titled What a Relief. One called Livin’ Close to the Bone (2022), though exhibited in a public space, is eye catching due to it’s size and colors in contrast to its monochrome surroundings. What works particularly well for this painting, in such a space, is that the natural mixed with studio light projected onto this area of the wall, gives the piece a three-dimensional aspect, which helps the edges of the various elements form a crisp outline, emphasizing the relief nature of the work, how the canvas sits on the wall and not apart of it.

Tucked away above the entrance door is the piece What a Relief (2022), which is almost missed unless you look right above before exiting the museum itself. It is a shame, as the artist Josh Sperling says himself, the piece is reminiscent of freeze sculptures that one would see in Classical architecture, but not meant to be seen as religious or iconographical. I believe that such a contemporary piece subtly calling back to antiquity is ingenious by such a placement, something that otherwise would give the piece a different meaning entirely if placed elsewhere in the gallery. To Sperling, the process of studying the gallery space is just as important as creating the work itself, as they both needed to be in cohesive dialog with one another. The natural lighting from the high roof above was why he chose to display his work here, where most artists never dare to. Sperling wanted to challenge himself to find the odd spots of the gallery and create work that would fit perfectly inside that space, spaces most affected by natural light, something that changes daily, to continuously give the work placed there a new life day after day.

These paintings show a relationship with the gallery architecture and the artworks by the contrasting color palette juxtaposed against this clean white wall it is displayed on, the time and effort taken by Sperling in thinking about the relationship with art and space. The gallery space itself has a modern feel that this exhibition What a Relief takes one outside of this pristine space and into the natural world of organic colors, patterns and shapes. These works in What a Relief recall one not necessarily to their nostalgic childhood, but to another place, the jocose and spontaneous place, a breath of fresh air from the mechanical galleries we tend to think of when going to a contemporary art museum. The amateur art goer may overlook these pieces, but it undoubtably splashes the walls with color and bring a whimsical atmosphere to those entering the museum.

A view from the stairwell above

I do not own any of the pieces, but I took these photos of the paintings.

Josh Sperling. Livin’ Close to the Bone. 2022. Acrylic on canvas and panel. SCAD Museum of Art, Georgia. Photo by me.

Josh Sperling. What a Relief. 2022. Acrylic on canvas and panel. SCAD Museum of Art. Photo by me.

These works are colorful, inviting and fun. I recommend seeing this exhibition if you have the opportunity. I enjoy works that are tandem with their surroundings, and these works do just that. It was a pleasure hearing Josh Sperling speak about these works and his practice and I am excited to see what he will make in the future.