Caged Bird Songs
Cameron Spratley is interested in making rebuses—multi-solution, punning riddles, that reflect the viewer’s thinking and preconceptions. In the six mixed-media works-on-paper presented online by James Fuentes in “Caged Bird Songs,” Spratley arranges texts sourced from posters, lyrics, his own poetry, and store signs, with images found through his copious consumption of pop culture, sourced from the Shade Room, Worldstar, Instagram, Tumblr, and Google images. His rules for selecting images—that each be something he hasn’t before seen, of self-described “low quality,” and that it captures a certain emotion—contribute to his experiments in legibility, whether visual, textual, or cultural.
In Poison Miracle (2020), one strains to read the text behind an image of what looks to be a sexy cop costume—her name tag reads “Officer Naughty”—while diaphanous, blood-like paint specks drip down the work's surface. Other pieces, including GUNGUN (2020), and Widow Maker (2021)—the latter of which alludes to a nickname for a particularly deadly form of a heart attack—hint heavily at the notion of violence against Black men. In Detritus 002 (2021) [pictured], cut out and collaged images of screws, nails, and drill heads, almost unbearably glitzy, are layered until the composition verges on abstraction. In the space between, one sees a suggestion of flesh underneath—the eye attempts, but ultimately fails, to understand. There is more here than meets it.
Cameron Spratley, Detritus 002, 2021. Acrylic, Inkjet Prints, and uv varnish on paper, 27 × 40 inches.