March 2, 2010
posted by Caroline Picard
Last week The Nightingale screened some of Stuart Sherman’s work. As they describe him, “Renowned performance artist, conceptual artist, and filmmaker of extraordinary talents, Stuart Sherman was beloved in the downtown New York arts scene until his death in 2001. Sherman was most well known for his small-scale “Spectacles,” in which he would manipulate common objects on a simple table-top. He also created tiny, marvelous, imaginative, and uniquely cinematic films that have been very difficult to see until a recent revival of his work in New York allowed for a new appreciation of his work.” (you can read the rest of what they have to say by going here)
He was also written up in the New York Times. You can read the entire article by going here.
A Tabletop Conjurer, Rediscovered
We lose good artists to the past all the time, because their work was ephemeral, or difficult, or fashion wasn’t on their side. The performance artist Stuart Sherman, who died of AIDS in 2001, was a candidate for disappearance on all three counts. But thanks to two exceptional exhibitions, one at the New York University 80WSE gallery, the other at Participant Inc., an alternative space on the Lower East Side, he’s back in a big way, big at least for him.
Sherman’s signature pieces, which he called “spectacles,” were evanescent and minute. They featured just one performer, himself, and were initially presented in his downtown Manhattan apartment for friends and in city parks for passers-by.
His stage was a small folding table; his props everyday items: a pen, a light bulb, eyeglasses, a roll of tape, toys. The performance consisted of him rapidly, usually soundlessly, always precisely arranging and rearranging the objects, putting one on top of another, taping some down, tossing some away, creating the equivalent of still lifes seen in a flipbook.