Buzz Spector

I tear pages. I stack books. On given days these processes, or others that seem similarly inane in summary, occupy me in the studio. I assert that I am an excellent tearer of pages or stacker of books, but what then constitutes my virtuosity? Look at one of my altered books and you can see the torn edges of every sewn or perfect-bound sheet that formerly comprised its text block. My systematic excising of pages leaves a form whose organization in itself challenges the suggestion of random harm within the word, “tear,” commonly used to describe what I’ve done. As for my stacking, it’s the ordinary work of aggregation, whose oddness arises from what it is I’m building up with. Books in a row could be on anybody’s shelf, but books in a stack raise some interesting questions. [from “I stack things. I Tear Stuff Up,” artist statement published in Buzz Spector: Shelf Life (exh. cat.), Bruno David Gallery, St. Louis, 2010]

Buzz Spector (b. 1948) is an artist and writer whose artwork has been the focus of solo exhibitions in such museums and galleries as the Art Institute of Chicago; Huntington Museum of Art, Huntington, WV; Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA, the Saint Louis Art Museum and. most recently, “Buzz Spector: Reading Matter,” a survey of his work with books, at the Rockford Art Museum in Illinois. Spector’s visual art makes frequent use of the book, both as subject and object, and is concerned with relationships between public history, individual memory, and perception.

Spector was a co-founder, with Reagan and Roberta Upshaw, of WhiteWalls, a magazine of writings by artists, in Chicago in 1978, and served as the publication’s editor until 1987. Since then Spector has written extensively on topics in contemporary art and culture, and has contributed reviews and essays to a number of publications, including American Craft, Artforum, Art on Paper, Dialogue, Exposure, New Art Examiner, and Visions. Spector’s numerous exhibition catalogue essays include, most recently, “Deborah Butterfield: the Horse in the Horse,” in Deborah Butterfield: New Sculptures (Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, Chicago, 2021). Other major essays or interviews by Spector include “Dan Ramirez: Music of Spheres,” in Certainty and Doubt: Paintings by Dan Ramirez (Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, WI, 2017); Luis Camnitzer: Forewords and Last Words (Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 2011); “Conrad Bakker’s Vernacular Simulation,” in Untitled: Mail Order Catalogue (Creative Capital, New York, 2002), Dieter Roth (University of Iowa Museum of Art, 1999), and Ann Hamilton: Sao Paulo – Seattle (University of Washington Press, 1992).

Spector received the Distinguished Teaching of Art Award from the College Art Association in 2013. Among his other recognitions are a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Fellowship in 1991 and National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowships in 1982, 1985, and 1991. Spector is visiting faculty in the PhD in Creativity Program at University of the Arts, Philadelphia, and emeritus professor of art in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.

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