Vaughn Spann is an American contemporary painter born in Florida and based in New Jersey. His artworks explore concepts of memory, time, and space, through both enigmatic and expressive abstraction, as well as detailed surreal figuration.Read More
Spann completed a BFA at Rutgers University under the mentorship of the late artist and professor, Denyse Thomasos. Graduating in 2014, Spann later completed an MFA at Yale University (2018). The following year, he was accepted into the NXTHVN (Next Haven) artist residency programme, established by Yale alumnus and MacArthur Fellow Titus Kaphar.
Vaughn Spann's art does not conform to a singular focus. He once explained 'I don't want to choose one conversation. I want to be rebellious and think through lots of ideas.' His paintings can be divided between two stylistic branches—abstract and figurative—though with some seepage in between.
Spann's complex mixed media abstractions are painterly and expressive, and offer a rich diversity of colour and textures. While abstract, such works often incorporate 'universal symbols' like circles, spheres, X-marks, brickwork patterns, and even rainbows. Carrying out formalist investigations of colour, line, shape, and material in these works, Spann generates compelling content relating to historical and personal narratives.
Vaughn Spann's 'Marked Man' series (2019–ongoing), uses the 'X' form to allude to both personal and collective experiences as an African American man being racially profiled, or 'marked', by police for stop-and-frisk procedures when he was in college. Spann's figurative paintings, on the other hand, are characterised by smooth surfaces, a vivid palette, and crisply defined and detailed forms.
Vaughn Spann's figurative work most often presents surreal scenes, as in Basking in the wind (2019) and Parisian Girls (2019). Both works feature vibrantly adorned two-headed figures sporting contrasting expressions. Both are also accompanied by pairs of animals in outdoor but very secluded spaces.
A rising star of the contemporary art world, Vaughn Spann's work has found an international audience in art fairs like Frieze London, Art Basel Miami Beach, and EXPO Chicago. His work can also be found in major collections, such as the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Pérez Art Museum Miami; Deji Art Museum, Nanjing; and the Rubell Family Collection.
Smoke Signals, Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels (2020); The Heat Lets Us Know We're Alive, Almine Rech Gallery, New York (2020); Scorched Earth and The Weeping Sun, Kaikai KiKi Gallery, Tokyo (2019); Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, David Castillo, Miami (2019); Orange, Yellow, Purple, Blue Skies, Half Gallery, New York (2018).
Polyphonic, Pérez Art Museum Miami (2020); Unparalleled Journey through Contemporary Art of Past 50 Years, Rubell Museum, Miami (2019); Domestic Horror, Gagosian, New York (2019); Early 21st Century Art, Almine Rech Gallery, London (2018); After Afropolitan, Weeksville Heritage Center and Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, New York (2015); For Whom it Stands, Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Baltimore (2014).
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021
Works by Black artists outstripped estimates several times over at Phillips' New York auction last night.
The first Thursday in September comes like a sharp ring of an alarm clock, stirring the last dregs of summer in the city. It marks the awakening of all things culture across the Tri-state Area— as vagabond New Yorkers and visitors flock from all around the world to savor the newest in fashion, their appetite for visual art must also be met....