Review of "Quartered, Flipped and Rotated " at the Montclair Art Museum
October 10, 2004- May 8, 2005
The Montclair Times
October 5, 2004
"Quartered, Flipped, And Rotated at MAM"

New York-based artist Devorah Sperber has created a giant abstract installation using fragmented sections of the Montclair Art Museum’s (MAM) iconic Edward Hopper painting “Coast Guard Station” (1927), in “Quartered, Flipped and Rotated: An Installation by Devorah Sperber,” which opens Sunday, Oct. 10, and will be on view at MAM through May 8, 2005.

Sperber’s wall-covering installation will interconnect and transform Hopper’s important, early landscape into abstracted versions of what appear to be Native American textile motifs and seemingly surrealist, quasi-landscape vis-tas. It will take the form of four variants, made of chenille stem (or pipe cleaners, as they are more commonly known), on the Hopper composition mounted on top of an all-over wallpaper of the same miniature Hopper variations. The installation is on view in the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation Art Stairway.

In the South Gallery, a chenille stem reproduction of the Hopper will be installed near where the original Hopper’s “Coast Guard Station” is installed. The exhibition unites the museum’s two primary collection areas – American and Native American art – in utterly novel ways.

The installation grew out of Sperber’s recognition of the potential for a complex exploration and interconnection of the museum’s two collection areas. As the exhibition title suggests, by quartering, flipping, and rotating the com-position of “Coast Guard Station,” Sperber created four variant compositions: two closely resembling Southwest Navajo textile designs and the other pair approximating quasi-surreal landscapes.

“Since 1999, intrigued by art’s double capacity for seeing and knowing and drawn to labor-intensive projects, the New York artist Devorah Sperber has — almost to the point of obsession — created a fascinating series of large-scale installations and multipart works,” stated MAM Director Patterson Sims, curator of the project. “They are all the more striking and impressive given that small works on paper have dominated the contemporary art scene in the past few years.”

Sperber’s recent large-scale pieces have used pixelated, photo-based representation in formats that fluctuate between representation and abstraction. Mixing conceptualism with sensuous, physical materiality, her art is a product of a honed technical and scientific mind, formidable sculpture and fiber-making skills, and an omnivorous sensibility. She uses digital technology to create high-tech works, but consciously simplifies technology using mundane materials and low-tech, hands-on assembly processes.

Born in 1961, Sperber was the third daughter of three children of immigrant parents; her father was German/Polish and her mother German. Her father was a Holocaust survivor who came to the United States with his mother in 1949. Her parents met in Germany in 1954 when her father returned there to serve in the U.S. military from 1953 through 1955.

Raised in Detroit, Mich., at the age of 10, Sperber moved with her family to Denver, Colo., in 1971 in the aftermath of the Detroit riots. Her parents worked hard to build successful businesses. Her father maintained his family’s company in Detroit and established a larger business in Denver that manufactured equipment to install his patented insulation and fireproofing processes. He was “very creative and thought out of the box,” Sperber recalled. Sperber equally prized her mother for her “intuitive understanding of aesthetics” and willingness to do whatever it took to “get the job done.” From high school to early college, Sperber assumed she would go into business. She worked summers in the production end of her father’s assembly shop and attended the Art Institute of Colorado from 1979 to 1981. In college, she switched from advertising and graphic design to fine art, graduating summa cum laude in 1987 from Denver’s Regis University.

Sperber’s carved expressionist figurative works jump-started her career when she was asked shortly after graduation to include her stone sculptures and related bronze castings in a national exhibition on Holocaust victim Anne Frank. Through that exhibition, she met the New York-based Bruce Dobozin, a New York allergy and immunology specialist, whom she joined in New York and married.

When viewing the Chuck Close retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1998, Sperber realized Close’s use of analog photography-based processes for paintings might methodologically be translated into using pixel-based formats for sculptural installations. She turned to spools of sewing thread and for her more recent “art about art” pieces has clustered and woven tens of thousands of chenille stems.

On Tuesday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m., Sperber will discuss “Quartered, Flipped and Rotated,” in a program titled “Pix-elated.” The program fee is $2 for members; $4 for nonmembers.

Also on view in MAM’s galleries this fall are “Jan Matulka: The Global Modernist” and “Indian Space Works from the Collection.” Both will be on exhibition through Jan.16, 2005.

The Montclair Art Museum is located at 3 South Mountain Ave. For more information, call (973) 746-5555, or visit the Web site at

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