Alison Saar: STILL...
Informed by artistic traditions from the Americas to Africa and beyond, and by her mixed racial upbringing, Alison Saar fuses her paradoxical responses to the black-and-white delineations of political and social forces into a powerful, visual, and kinesthetic tension. She uses the everyday experience, history and associations of her materials, African art and ritual, Greek mythology, and the stark sculptural tradition of German Expressionism to infuse her work with a primal intensity that challenges cultural and historic references and stereotypes.
The metaphorical armature supporting, entwining, embracing this selection of new sculpture is the myriad of meanings for the word “still.” Saar teases out the complexities of this little noun/verb in bold and subtle ways. Four stylized glass “stills” express the personal and political challenges of being an artist, woman, and mother in the twenty-first century. These interactive idiosyncratic stills attempt to distill the vile essence of bigotry and transform it into consciousness. Only through awareness and informed mindfulness can negative representations be dispelled and converted into positive reflections.
In contrast to the rustic, mechanical, fragmented feel of the stills, are Saar’s figures. These various hybrid creatures stem from trees or boast antlers. They stand at the threshold, caught or balancing between free will and innate evolution. They are mythical portends of inevitable change – shedding fertility to reveal the next saga. Rouse (located at the back of the gallery) depicts a strong, dark, compact woman with a semi-transparent embryonic shell of a female figure nestled and bound inside her large antlers. Saar’s inspiration for this work is watching her daughter grow from a teenager to an adult. It also mirrors her desire to remake herself, to emerge from one state of creative pursuit and production to another.
Saar, an alumna from Otis’ Graduate Fine Arts program in 1981, is a mature and significant sculptor who has achieved broad recognition for her studio and public art throughout the country. Her work is held in many collections including the Museum of Modern Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and Metropolitan Museum of Art; and she has major public art works in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. She has received numerous prestigious awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, Anonymous Was a Woman, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Saar’s work echoes an entirely American process of spiritual and political bifurcation, and the evolution of historical recovery. As Lowry Stokes Sims, Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design, wrote, “Alison Saar’s library of references is as varied and rich as her own heritage. Her special gift lies in her ability to translate the personal and the culturally specific in such a way that it embodies concerns that not only transcend race but also gender.”*
Meg Linton, Director of Galleries and Exhibitions
Curator of the Exhibition, OTIS Ben Maltz Gallery
This exhibition was organized by the Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design. Funded in part by the Contemporary Collectors – Orange County. All artworks are lent by the artist and courtesy LA Louver, Venice, CA.
This exhibition will be on view February 9-April 14, 2013
Alison Saar: STILL... Artist Talk • 7 pm Thursday, March 14
Docent-led Tours for Alison Saar: STILL...
1:30 pm Sunday, March 3, 10, 17, 24
6 pm Thursday, March 14, 28 and April 11
This exhibition is sponsored by:
*Lowry Stokes Sims, “Alison Saar’s Feallan and Fallow: Seasons, Colors, Race and Gender,” in Feallan and Fallow: Alison Saar. New York: Mad. Sq. Art, 2011, p. 43.
images: (above) Rouse, 2012, Wood, bronze, paper and antler sheds; 90 x 76 x 73 inches. Photo: Chris Warner; (left) Still Run Dry (detail), 2012, Detail; Glass, copper, rubber, lead and steel; 75 x 116 x 14 inches. Photo: Chris Warner