Cameron Spratley USA, b. 1994


Cameron Spratley is a visual artist whose frenetic, layered paintings express the unstable, disturbing, complicated, and frequently absurd nature of being young and Black in America. In the tradition of dime novels and exploitation film posters, Spratley creates images that leverage spectacle and horror to create an undeniable aesthetic attraction, drawing the viewer’s eye to a circus of anxiety, violence, and confusion. Spratley’s visual references include celebrities, weapons, fire, shattered glass, religious iconography, graphic sexuality, cartoons, and phrases such as “FACIALS,” “HEROIN,” or “NO AIRBAGS: WE DIE LIKE MEN,” referencing extreme expressions of toxic masculinity and self-destruction. Spratley’s paintings can be compared to rebuses—pictographic puzzles that convey coded messages through a patchwork of symbolic images and text. The interrelated connections hiding within his menagerie of references reveal the complex and esoteric matrix supporting a demented culture that forces so many already marginalized young Americans to live in a constant state of confusion and fear. Spratley earned a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and an MFA from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, and attended the Yale University at Norfolk residency. Recent exhibitions include In the Air Tonight at James Fuentes, New York; 730 at M. Leblanc, Chicago; A Healthy Dose of Nihilism at Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Columbus; Imperfect Crystal at Moskowitz Bayse, Los Angeles; and Made to be Broken at P.P.O.W., New York.