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Sleeping Beauty

A One-Artist Dictionary

The dictionary. The ubiquitous high-gloss fashion ad. The fraught relationship between artist and critic. Sleeping Beauty ties these disparate strands of our everyday lives together only to strip away everything we thought we knew about each of them. A collaborative work by the artist John Sparagana and the critic Mieke Bal, this truly cutting-edge work takes the shape of a conversation between his creations—distressed, or “fatigued,” magazine pages—and her words, imagining anew the relationships of image to text and of art to those who write about it.
            Bal contributes twenty-six essays, one for each letter of the alphabet, which borrow their organizing principle from the dictionary but reach far beyond the utilitarian purpose of a reference volume. Each one enters deeply into Sparagana’s work, illuminating concepts from Abstract to Zestful that inform, underlie, and lend meaning to the exquisitely ruined images he creates by crinkling glossy images from fashion magazines until their sheen disappears and they become soft and elastic. Unmooring the magazine page from its familiar context, these beautiful rags are rendered poetic by Sparagana’s unique art of subtraction, which physically rubs away not only ink and material, but also transience and commercial usefulness.
            Just as Sparagana’s work intervenes in existing images, so, too, do Bal’s explorations qualify existing concepts. But together, in this inaugural volume in the new series Project Tango: Artists and Writers Together, they have given rise to something wholly new: a prophetic one-artist dictionary that simultaneously reenvisions the untapped interactions of images with words and the potential forms of the book itself. 

136 pages | 33 color plates | 11 1/4 x 9 1/4 | © 2008

Project Tango: Artists and Writers Together

Art: Art Criticism


“In this unusual publication Sparagana and Bal draw us into an exhilarating world of skillfully fragmented images and the responses they trigger. This dialogue forms the basis of a wildly pliable dictionary in which artist and writer not only inform each other but propose a new way to talk about images.”

Arturo Herrara

“Formidable art writer and cultural critic Mieke Bal rises to the new occasion of rising star John Sparagana to ignite a steadily illuminating interplay of image and text. For all the eloquence and pithiness of Bal’s discourse, in the conversation this book sustains the pictures are always speaking back. Sparagana’s images do not set out just to flay a skin-deep commercial culture. They layer it with a distancing webwork of mystery, opening it at times to its own unconscious enigmas and often netting the unexpected. Twenty-six times, Bal enters the space thus opened or implied. She has never been better. And it’s hard to imagine Sparagana being better served.”

Garrett Stewart, author of Novel Violence

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