The Weatherspoon Art Museum
at UNC Greensboro
is pleased to present the exhibition Mirror, Mirror: The Prints of Alison
. Alison Saar is known not only for her powerful sculptures—she is also a master of the art of printmaking. In both forms, she employs a personal vocabulary informed by history, race, and mythology. Her influences range from ancient Europe, Africa, and American Folk Art, and she is especially drawn to the Kouros, an ancient Greek sculptural form of a man in the diametric pose of stillness and movement.
In addition to 46 prints, including the portfolios “Arcade Suite” and “Copasetic Portfolio,” the exhibition includes six sculptures. Saar often creates related prints and sculptures, such as “White Guise” and “Pallor Tricks.” Her works narrate stories of the African American experience, moving effortlessly from the personal to the political. In many of them, while she charts the tragic history of slavery in America, her figures symbolize defiance and strength. Other recurring images are informed by jazz, romance, and desire.
Saar has explored almost every conceivable form of printmaking, both in process and materials. Her prints include woodcuts, linoleum cuts, etchings, serigraphs, intaglios, lithographs, and monoprints, among other formats. She has printed upon paper, stained cotton shop rags, found sugar shack quilts, and vintage seed sacks. In some cases, she incorporates collage elements, hand-applied pigments, shellac, and chine-collé. Her sculptures also are notable for their combination of materials, from ceramic, cotton bolls, wood, tar and wax to tin, stone, silk, and cast bronze.
Saar was born into an artistic family: her father was an art restorer and ceramicist; her mother, Betye, a renowned artist who also works across media and format; her sister, Lesley, also a visual artist, and her sister, Tracye, who is a writer.
Alison Saar was born in Los Angeles in 1958 and grew up in Laurel Canyon at a time when it was something of an artists’ haven, lived in New York for many years, and now lives in Los Angeles. California canyons are prone to fires caught in the valleys between high ridges. The experience of resulting destruction and renewal shaped Alison’s destiny in many ways and later became manifest in her work. As she combed the rubble with her sisters, she found pieces of china and glass, old bottles and other orphaned objects. As Weatherspoon director Nancy Doll has written, “Using these common bits and pieces as both inspiration and artistic fodder, Saar became a master of materials and media. In a kind of artistic shamanism, these recovered items became powerful symbols that combined with her profound subject matter to create some of the most compelling art being done today.”
Through decades of work, Alison Saar has held the vision to use the power of art to tell stories, and especially ones that matter.
Alison Saar earned her B.A. at Scripps, College, CA, in 1978 and her MFA at Otis Art Institute in 1981. She has had more than 50 solo exhibitions across the country, including several major traveling shows. Her work also has been included in dozens and dozens of group exhibitions since 1985; some of these included Revival
, National Museum for Women in the Arts,; Rise Up! Social Justice in Art From the Collection of Michael Bewley
, San Jose Museum of Art; Hopes Springing High
, Crocker Museum of Art; and From Then to Now: Masterworks of Contemporary African-American Art
, Museum of Contemporary, Cleveland, to name but a few.
Saar has been commissioned to create work for the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles; Metro Silver Line, Gardena, CA; Harriet Tubman Memorial, New York, and the California Endowment, Los Angeles, among others. The artist’s work has been recognized with multiple grants and awards, such as Anonymous Was a Woman, Joan Mitchell Foundation, Augustus St. John Memorial Foundation, Guggenheim Foundation, and three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Alison Saar’s work can be found in the collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art; Bowdoin College Museum of Art, ME; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, LA County Museum of Art; Laumeier Sculpture Park, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Studio Museum in Harlem, Virginia Museum of Fine Art; Walker Art Center; Weatherspoon Art Museum; and the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation, among others.This exhibition has been coordinated for the Weatherspoon Art Museum by Nancy Doll, Director, and is accompanied by a catalog.Support for the exhibition and related educational and outreach programs has been made possible by a grant from the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation.
Image: Alison Saar, Coup de Grâce
, lithograph, edition 6/16, 19 1/4 x 25 in. Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer.