March 13, 2019
53 Picks

With her new sculptural work, Alison Saar reaches back into the American literary canon to rework and reclaim a character from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe problematic, yet historic novel. Topsy, an enslaved Black girl who was denied full personhood by Stowe, is now re-imagined as a self-actualized woman in a bronze sculpture on view through March 23 at Los Angeles gallery, L.A. Louver.  Situated in the space’s open-air Skyroom, the figure, seated on a bale of cotton, is crowned by cotton branch-hair that reaches to over six feet into the air against a sky blue backdrop.

Alison Saar, “Grow’d”

The work is titled Grow’d, referencing a direct quote from Topsy in the novel, a moment in which she claims her own agency within her evolution as a human being. She responds to her slave master’s inquiry as to her thoughts on her parents and God with the statement: “I ‘spect I grow’d. Don’t think nobody ever made me.”

Saar who is widely recognized for her sculptures, also has an extensive body of works on paper that includes lithograph, etching and woodblock prints, reminiscent of her sculptural work and made over nearly three decades. Her use of unconventional materials and found objects as the foundation for printmaking plates, as well as “canvases”, was celebrated on March 8th with the 2019 Southern Graphic Council International Lifetime Achievement Award.

Alison Saar, “White Guise” (2018-2019), Woodcut, relief, shellac-stained paper, hand-tinted iron; 55×27.5, P.R.I.N.T. Press at the University of North Texas (Courtesy of the artist)

Addressing themes of race, gender and spirituality through a personal lense throughout her career, Alison Saar’s works on paper will be on view across the United States throughout 2019. The traveling exhibition, Mirror Mirror: The Prints of Alison Saar, focusing on the “body as the place of identity”, recently opened at the University of North Texas Art Gallery in Denton, TX (there through May 11th), travels to Joy Pratt Markham Gallery, Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, AR (May 28th – October 6th), and then goes to Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina in Greensboro (opening November 3rd through February 2020).

Alison Saar, “Cotton Eater (head)” (2013), ceramic, acrylic, graphite and cotton bolls; 71/2x13x101/2; Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer (HIPM) (Courtesy the artist)