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Friday, September 21, 2012

Alison Saar Gets Into Your Head and Your Heart

Alison Saar, Rouse, 2012. Wood, bronze, fiberlass and antler sheds. 90x76x73. Photo: Chris Warner
Courtesy Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design
The world premiere of Lighthouse / Lightning Rod on September 27 at the Howard Gilman Opera House (also the night of BAM's 30th Next Wave gala celebration) reunites the distinguished collaborative team of composer/musician Wynton Marsalis and choreographer Garth Fagan.

Artist Alison Saar is designing the set elements for Lighthouse/Lightning Rod. Saar works in a primarily figurative vein, featuring the human body (often female) in various states of emotional or physical expressiveness that can border on the surreal, as when tears weep from a person's back, or tendrils descend from a figure's feet to root into the earth. She favors elemental mediums such as wood or metal and has experimented recently with other materials including glass, which has allowed her to conduct fluids between different vessels representing body parts, opening up even more metaphorical possibilities. 

Alison Saar, 50 Proof, 2012 (detail)
Photo: Chris Warner, courtesy Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis School of Art and Design
Saar taps the symbolic richness of found objects, reusing cast iron frying pans as ideally-sized surfaces for portraits—the pans' "seasoning" (the aromatic patina that builds up after frying stuff) becoming part of the object's story, focused around domestic labor. The spades of shovels, or the soles of shoes, become similar canvases, their intended purposes lending an immediate, if abstract, complexity of meaning.

Alison Saar. Concept sketch for Lighthouse/Lightning Rod, 2012.

Saar's work is currently on view at the Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design in LA, through November 17, so by all means catch it if you happen to be out west. And whatever Saar creates for Lighthouse (yes, we're most anxious to see it too!) expect both your heart and your head to be profoundly moved and challenged. A concept sketch is shown above.

Griot New York. Set by Martin Puryear. Photo: Basil Childers

Two decades ago, Fagan and Marsalis joined efforts to produce Griot New York, also represented in this fall's BAM run (through September 30) with selected excerpts, and for which sculptor Martin Puryear created the elegant, dramatic set pieces that made a searing visual imprint. Lighthouse/Lightning Rod continues the Next Wave legacy of uniting fantastic artists in pursuit of a memorable artistic achievement. 

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