Buzz Spector’s latest mixed-media collages move away from the literary and philosophical preoccupations of his bookworks to explore the slippery nature of historical meaning itself. Collectively titled “History Lessons,” these small, intimate works focus on color postcards of Dutch landscape, featuring such scenes as tulip fields, windmills and canals. This “low,” vernacular medium is incorporated into grid-like patterns alongside Mondrian-like color fields, so that Modernism’s pretensions to spiritual transcendence are placed on an equal formal footing with the vulgarized medium of popular culture.
Similarly, a group of crudely rendered landscapes resembling faded Ruysdaels are superimposed by a series of rectangular color cue chips, as if to illustrate Modernist abstraction’s historical debt to Dutch genre painting, as well as its ultimate leap forward into the debased world of interior design and high fashion.
For Spector, formal absolutes can be reshuffled like a deck of cards, and historical meanings remade to match the prevailing ideology of the times. The work seems to advocate a need for historical skepticism. Spector’s ability to pull the universal out of the local makes his work an ideal starting point. (Roy Boyd Gallery, 1547 10th St., to Dec. 5)