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Meredyth Sparks (B. 1972)
Gudrun Constructed I-V
Aluminium foil, glitter and vinyl on archival paper, in five parts
each: 57 5/8 x 35 3/8in. (146.5 x 90cm.)
Executed in 2009, this work is unique
Elizabeth Dee, New York.
Acquired from the above in 2011.
London, Saatchi Gallery, Out of Focus: Photography, 2012, no. MS.2 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).

Lot Essay

Interested in the way that the aesthetics and politics of the 1970s have been received in the following decades, for her 2008 exhibition We were strangers for too long Meredyth Sparks turned to some of the period’s alternative icons. For the most part, these were musical – punk and post-punk cool embodied in bands like Joy Division, The Jam, Generation X and Throbbing Gristle – but she also produced work on Andreas Baader and, as here, Gudrun Ensslin of the West German far-left militant group the Red Army Faction. Acknowledging these figures’ own stylistic debts to earlier modernisms, Sparks treated their images by overlaying in collage cut-out geometric forms, the monochrome pictures occasionally enlivened with bright red; echoing both the Suprematism of Malevich and Lissitzky, as well as De Stijl’s simple clarity of colour. In the striking portraits of Gudrun Constructed, Sparks takes five photographs of Ensslin – the same photos on which Gerhard Richter based his 1977 Confrontation series – and applies an arrangement of glitter, and vinyl and aluminium geometric forms over her body. Her face just visible above the overlay, Sparks simultaneously augments and erases Ensslin’s identity with a version of modernism realised in the material of capitalism at its shiniest and most polished, underlining the way in which the act of fetishising the aesthetics of radicalism is underpinned by a capitalist logic that distorts the meaning of the past.

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