Aaron Spangler (b. 1971, Minneapolis, MN) lives and works in Park Rapids, MN. He received a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, MN. He is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the McKnight Foundation for Visual Artists, Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Jerome Foundation. The artist is represented by Horton Gallery, where he has been featured in two solo shows, a group show, and an art fair. His work will be featured in the gallery's booth at Art Rotterdam in February 2014. The artist has co-curated a group show Wrong's What I Do Best with Hesse McGraw opening in April 2014 at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Aaron Spangler’s work is carved from solid blocks of Basswood, a medium rife with limitations and possibilities, and then covered in black gesso and graphite. Working three-dimensionally and in bas-relief, the artist works reductively, balancing shifting scale and perspective, so that each cut not only focuses but propels the composition forward. Increasingly, abstract form and line in Spangler’s work share space with representational imagery so that neither carries more weight than the other. At first glance, the action in the carvings seems to occupy a specific lawless period in the rural American consciousness. However, as objects in nature accumulate as much agency as man-made ones, the composition evokes a timeless world where objects become unmoored from their footings, behave badly, and avenge injustices on their own.

Notable Exhibitions:

The Living Years: Art After 1989, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
American Gothic, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC
Spectacular Vernacular, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Contemporary Arts, Museum, Houston, TX; Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ; and Ackland Art Museum, Chapel Hill, NC
Western Art Exhibition, Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Taipei, TW
Heartland, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, NL and Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, IL
By Hand, Memphis College of Art, Memphis, TN
Not Afraid, The Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL
Aaron Spangler and Rob Fischer: OSB Additions, Bemidji Art Center, Bemidji, MN
Re-imaging the Landscape, Katherine Nash Gallery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

Press Mentions:

"Spangler's output is infused with a pragmatist ethos, evinced through the evolution of his working process. He came upon carving as his favored medium when he decided to incorporate some carved elements into a found object sculpture he was making. He grabbed a sharpened screwdriver for that piece. Though he uses chisels now, his carving technique is self-taught. Spangler's curiosity about materials and techniques has yielded increasingly complex arrangements that are also conceptually rich." - Eric Sutphin, "Aaron Spangler", Art in America, December 2013.

"Over plentiful years of an intensely sustained, self-taught practice, Spangler has mastered the ability to create physical objects that become markers of personal and collective consciousness. With most of these works, Spangler starts with the idea of form, at times touching flame to wood and sanding the char away, achieving smoothness, and arriving at a shape. After this shape was fixed, he applied low relief woodcuts; with very free and loose chisel marks, traced from patterns that he laid out indiscriminately on the wood. He described how this body of work, and his process, do in fact seem more free in comparison to previous works, which were often pictorial, narrative vessels driving forth stories of fallen away small towns, rural solitude, community, subculture, and resistance. His past sculptures seemed like holding places for the motifs and symbols of the everyday, such as local vegetation, a boot, a car, a cabin, tangled trees, a telephone pole, a radio tower, and so on. While this essence has not departed entirely (it can still be seen in the simple attunement of a cross on a wall or a chair on the ground), this body of work carries a kind of centeredness and essence that cannot be fully circumscribed." - Kari Adelaide, "Homeschool", Horton Gallery exhibition catalogue, September 2013.

"Spangler's use of historical relief carving fuses medieval gravitas with a folk vernacular, 'as though,' in the words of critic Ken Johnson, 'its author were a backwoods prophet carving his own Book of Revelations.'" - Steven Matijcio, "American Gothic: Aaron Spangler and Alison Elizabeth Taylor", Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, April 21 - August 21, 2011.

"Aaron Spangler’s three blocky black wood carvings on metal stands pile up images and motifs, just like the ancient Romans heaped up captured armor and weapons as trophies. And Spangler’s subjects similarly suggest the spoils of war…Spangler whittles with folksy charm, and like outsider art, his sculptures teem with hermetic meaning. But far from triumphal monuments, his works hint at some dark remembrance of imperial adventures." - Joseph R. Wolin, "Aaron Spangler, 'Government Whore'", Time Out New York, May 10, 2010.

"I was thinking about how and why young Americans turned to the woods in search of a more meaningful, self-directed life and how that was mirrored in the movement of the early pioneers." - Aaron Spangler, "The Spectacular of Vernacular", Walker Art Center, 2010.

"Aaron Spangler's large-scale wooden reliefs and sculptures offer a critical look into a specific American mythology firmly rooted in the middle and upper Midwest - the ideal of the peaceful, agrarian Heartland." - Charles Esche, "Heartland", Smart Museum of Art and Van Abbemuseum, 2008-2009.

"Spangler…searches beyond--or, more accurately, before--the built environment, but as a native son of the prairie, he not only appears to have a more sympathetic eye for what remains in the wake of the region's industrial decline, but has resisted the conventions of wood carving by transforming a marginalized craft typically associated with bearded, plaid-shirted gentlemen of a certain age into a conduit for the mythology of the Midwest without diminishing its tactility or symbolic richness. The prairie, despite pioneering, settlement, and its eventual degeneration, asserts itself as a distinct element of the work." - Eugenia Bell, "Aaron Spangler", Artforum, January 2008.

"You don't see much wood carving in elite Chelsea galleries. An antiquated craft with little relevance to modern technologies of communication or to a competitive, fast-paced contemporary art market, it is too hard to learn and takes too much time to do well. So it is exciting to come upon the large, intricate reliefs carved from broad, three-inch slabs of maple and painted black by Aaron Spangler." - Ken Johnson, "AARON SPANGLER", The New York Times, February 18, 2005.

"On Aaron Spangler's studio wall hangs a photograph of a long-haired young man grasping a megaphone and shouting for all he's worth. The picture depicts a younger Spangler and the occasion is his war, that is, one that he planned and staged with a friend at college. Since he was a child, the Brooklyn-based Minnesota native has been fascinated by war's devastation and its potential as a metaphor for psychological conflict. However, while the U.S. is obsessed with terrorism in its cities and abroad, Spangler focuses on anarchy in rural America in large wood-carvings of battle ravaged landscapes." - Merrily Kerr, "Recuperating Revolt", Flash Art, May - June, 2004.

Notable Collections:

Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Richard Massey Foundation, New York, NY
Takashi Murakami, Tokyo, JP
The Progressive Collection, Cleveland, OH
Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL
Saatchi Gallery, London, UK
Soho House, Chicago, IL
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Wellington Management Collection, Boston, MA

Photo: Amy Thielen

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