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Renowned artist Alison Saar shows sculptures at U-Md. Driskell Center


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Photo courtesy of Chris Warner/Driskell Center. Alison Saar’s work “En Pointe” — made of wood, bronze, graphite and rope — is an 87-by-52-by-30-inch sculpture.

Photo courtesy of Chris Warner/Driskell Center. Alison Saar’s work “En Pointe” — made of wood, bronze, graphite and rope — is an 87-by-52-by-30-inch sculpture.

Published on: Thursday, October 03, 2013

By Wanda Jackson

A new art exhibition at the Driskell Center is an opportunity to see works by an artist whose originality an LA Times art critic likened to Michelangelo.

“Alison Saar: Still…” is a collection of 11 sculptures created by artist Alison Saar. It is on display through Dec. 13 in the gallery at the David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, College Park. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

Saar’s work is deeply tied to her multiracial heritage, and it is through this lens that she so strikingly captures the human spirit, according to a pre-opening news release by the center.

Combining African art and ritual, Greek mythology and German aspects of expressionism, Saar challenges stereotypes and offers an indictment of human discrimination.

Through her sculptures, she displays the primal intensity of people underlying the civility of everyday life.

Saar scrutinizes bigotry and historical burdens and portrays these concepts through a visual and kinesthetic tension, common in many of her pieces.

One such powerful piece, “Weight,” shows a young black girl on a swing, weighed down with shackles, a lock and key, boxing gloves and other assorted items on a cotton scale.

Saar’s use of commonplace and specialized materials in her works make them highly unique.

“My studio is floor-to-ceiling with materials like that, and when I start cleaning up and going through them, ideas start coming. Like ‘Oh, yeah! This could be something!’ So I try to keep stuff around. It’s the new little things that can take you to different places,” said Saar in statements released by the center.

Saar’s philosophy for understanding her art is to “just look at it.” She refuses to explicitly define her pieces, instead wishes that people use their own experiences to draw meaning from them, rather than being told what they mean.

“Alison Saar: Still…” includes works from 2010 to 2012 and combines the ruggedness of nature with solid structure. There are four never-exhibited works and six new pieces.

The exhibition, organized by the Los Angeles Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design, funded in part by the Contemporary Collectors — Orange County, has traveled to the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, and later it will travel to Bakalar & Paine Galleries, MassArt in Massachusetts.

Saar, who grew up in California, is one of three daughters of well-known artist Betye Saar and art conservationist Richard Saar. She was encouraged from an early age to explore and engage with art. She completed her bachelor’s degree in studio art and art history at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., in1978, and received her Master’s of Fine Arts from the Otis Art Institution in Los Angeles in 1981. Saar studied Afro-Caribbean, Haitian, African and Afro-Cuban art with Samella Lewis and became interested in African-American folk art, which has heavily influenced her own art.

In 1982, at the age of 26, her work was presented in her first solo exhibition at the Jan Baum Gallery in Los Angeles, CA. She has since exhibited at many venues across the United States including the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, in 1993; the Phyllis Kind Gallery in New York in 2001; and the LUX Art Institute in Encinitas, CA, in 2011, where she also currently serves as artist in residence.

For exhibit hours and additional information, call 301-314-2615 or visit www.driskellcenter.umd.edu.

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