Two Purple Tigers, an exhibition of new work by New York-based artist Josh Sperling, his second with Perrotin and his first in Asia, features the artists' signature forms—squiggles, swirls, rambunctious geometry—in new configurations.
Eat Your Heart Out (2018), a wall of geometric forms and snaking glyphs, is an edge-to-edge composition with seemingly porous borders, delimited only by the wall that supports it. No central figure anchors the image, no individual shape overpowers the eye. Instead, all-over pattern and motion reign. Like wriggling forms seen through a microscope, Eat Your Heart Out presents only a sample of a larger phenomenon: in this case, Sperling's ongoing series of shaped canvas forms.
Each shaped canvas is meticulously crafted. Layers of plywood are built up, forming the armature over which canvas is stretched and then painted. The visible ridges add not only texture, but a kind of diagrammatic dimensionality.
Like fluting in an architectural column, the ribbing in Sper¬ling's stretched canvases accentuates their convexity. The contrast between dimensional canvases and flat panels, between angular shapes and sinuous curves, only enhances the energetic array.
In Downwind Daze (2018), four serpentine forms swirl into each other in a psychedelic concatenation of form and color. A single coil seems to have broken free of this whirl and landed on a neighboring wall. It appears to quiver, either from the effort of springing forth or the impact of landing. Sperling, whether working in large compositions or single forms, is able to imbue static objects with sense of motion, a quality he's able to produce with color and contour alone.
In his knack for the geometric, Sperling owes an obvious debt to hard-edge abstraction and Minimalism. His other references comprise a broad swath of design and art historical antecedents. From the amoeba shaped wall sculptures of Jean Arp, to the boldly-hued snaking forms of Ken Price, and the whimsically asymmetrical designs of Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis group, Sperling's references are numerous and varied, bridging disciplines and epochs.