Spencer Lewis (b. 1979 in Hartford, CT) is recognized for his works on cardboard and jute, executed in swathes of bright, saturated pigment with a charged physicality expressed in heavily worked and tactile surfaces, streaked lines, smears of paint, and rough, slashed strokes that crisscross back and forth with visceral force. Lewis builds his compositions in layers through unbridled, even violent movements, deliberately subjecting his paintings to fatigue and brute overworking in order to unleash their organic power.
While Lewis’ gestural vigor echoes Abstract Expressionist action painting, the optics of his frenetic palette find resonance in Modernism. In his youth, Lewis discovered his mother’s books on Hans Hofmann and Willem de Kooning, which led him to acquire his own copies so he could draw over reproductions of their work with ballpoint pen, deconstructing their lines and planes of color. Such examinations were essential to his understanding of how to shift, fold, and construct space anew in his own paintings.
The thrashing gestures in Lewis’ mature abstractions have evolved from an X-shape that dominated his early Cage paintings executed on cardboard. Those loosely narrative works evinced the architecture of the body by employing an underlying grid over which the artist applied fields of flat color. Two cleaving lines crossed over the surface of these monumental canvases, rendering a vaguely anthropomorphic presence. An aperture was part of these works, suggesting a peering eye, while other representational fragments of the human face or body emerged and receded between thickets of knots.