The dictionary. The high-gloss fashion ad. The fraught relationship between artist and critic. "Sleeping Beauty" ties these disparate strands of our everyday lives together, only to strip away everything we thought we knew about each of them. A collaboration by the artist John Sparagana and the critic Mieke Bal, this truly cutting-edge work takes the shape of a conversation between his creations - distressed magazine pages - and her words, imagining anew the relationships of image to text and of art to those who write about it.Bal contributes twenty-six essays, one for each letter of the alphabet, which borrow their organizing principle from the dictionary but reach far beyond the utilitarian purpose of a reference volume. Each one enters deeply into Sparagana's art, illuminating concepts from Abstract to Zestful that inform, underlie, and lend meaning to the exquisitely ruined images he creates by crinkling glossy pictures from fashion magazines until their sheen disappears and they become soft and elastic.
Unmooring the magazine page from its familiar context, Sparagana renders these beautiful rags poetic through his unique art of subtraction, which physically rubs away not only ink and material, but also transience and commercial usefulness.Just as Sparagana's work intervenes in existing images, so, too, do Bal's explorations qualify existing concepts. But together, in this inaugural volume in the new series "Project Tango: Artists and Writers Together", they have given rise to something wholly new: a prophetic one-artist dictionary that simultaneously reenvisions the untapped interactions of images with words and the potential forms of the book itself.
John Sparagana is associate professor of visual art at Rice University. He has recently presented solo exhibitions in New York, Chicago, and Houston. Mieke Bal is academy professor at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and cofounder of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam. Her many books include Loving Yusuf: Conceptual Travels from Present to Past, also published by the University of Chicago Press.