Daniel Sprick’s Fictions: Recent Works
Denver Art Museum 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver
THE SELF IS LARGELY A CONSTRUCT, YET FUNDAMENTALLY REMAINS one of the most powerful fictions to which humans are prey.
Living and working in Denver, Sprick embodies for
We constantly invent ourselves, and others invent what they see
me something of the Rocky Mountains, though he does
of us. Daniel Sprick’s oil portraits ratify the immanence of the
not specifically portray the majestic nature we associate
individual while positing identity as a mysterious mix of essence,
with rugged western wilderness. For some years Sprick
chance, and choice. The use of Fictions as the title of the show
painted primarily still lifes. The Denver Art Museum
suggests the artist is as exhilarated by the freedom to invent as
owns one, a large memento mori painting—Release Your
he is bound by the duty to reproduce what he sees.
Plans—which is on display in a room near this exhibition.
Sprick’s technical mastery is the result of his being
Included is an adjoining reconstruction of some of the
deeply rooted in an academic tradition of painting that goes
painting’s mysterious elements and a video of the artist
back to the Renaissance. His respect is for the craft of artists
talking about his work. Release Your Plans embodies an
who, as he says, “painted with no limit on the amount of labor
enchanted space with the quality of a Vermeer interior,
[the work would] take to accomplish.” Especially intriguing
but with a subtle but palpable animation—as if some
is seeing this commitment alongside a confidence and
kind of force were whirling through the space. (Imagine
freedom that are utterly of the moment. Sprick’s precisely
the hair and draperies of Botticelli’s figures—Venus or
rendered models practically shimmer within a thoroughly
Spring’s dancing Graces—and how they seem to flow
contemporary field of vision that gracefully points to its own
in an imaginary wind, a zeitgeist.) Some of the figures
effacement without hitting us upside the head with irony.
of Fictions, for example Moses, Homeless, reside in a
Expressionistic brushwork in the background foregrounds the
similarly animated environment of their own. Ketsia
lucidity of representation, tempering photographic perfection
seems to be morphing, not like Bernini’s Daphne, into
with seamless swerves into expressionistic scufflings at the
a tree to escape Apollo’s lust, but rather dancing in the
edges of the figures, their hair trailing off into wisps, clouds,
sheer joy of being, between the worlds of photorealism
jangles of paint flung outwards.
and abstract painting. All the images in this show are striking. There are skulls, a reclining nude, a reclining skeleton, a window with mirror, a partial view of a figure in a chair, a painting called Jared showing a young man in dreadlocks, which has been acquired by the museum. The paintings portray people of both sexes, and a wide range of ethnicities, ages, body types, and apparent social circumstances. Beijing Man and Chief Ironshell were two of the figures I found most captivating, perhaps as they were more “exotic” in the sense of being farther from my own sketchy identity tags (white, female). On the other hand, a painting called Tom M., which shows a remarkable physiognomy, was even more intriguing to me precisely because I am slightly acquainted with the individual portrayed. In resonance with what he refers to in an interview as “complete conviction… a real palpable belief in the importance of the work” that motivated artists such as Holbein, Vermeer or nineteenth century landscape painters, Sprick’s gravitas in the handling of oil paint is evident both in precision and looseness, truly manifesting a kind of painterly middle way. We are fortunate to have access to such a fine intersection of disciplined craft and that masterful whim sometimes called grace.
—Marina La Palma
Daniel Sprick, Moses, Homeless, oil on board, 21” x 20”, 2012. Photo: Wes Magyar & WM Artist Service Daniel Sprick, Ketsia, oil on board, 20” x 24”, 2012. Photo: Wes Magyar & WM Artist Service