"Snake Man", color woodcut and lithograph by Alison Saar, 1994, Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House
|Born||Allison M. Saar
February 5, 1956
Los Angeles, California
|Education||Scripps College, Otis Art Institute|
|Known for||Sculpture, installation art|
Early life and education
Saar was born in Los Angeles, California to a well-known African American artist Betye Saar and Richard Saar, an art conservationist. Both parents encouraged their two daughters, all artists, to look at a wide range of art. As children, Saar and her siblings were given books on art and were taken to area museums. They also saw Outsider Art, such as Simon Rodia's Watts Towers in Los Angeles and Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village in Simi Valley. During high school, Alison began assisting her father in his restoration work. Dealing with artifacts from different cultures—Chinese frescoes, Egyptian mummies, and Pre-Columbian and African art—taught Alison about properties of various materials, techniques, and aesthetics.
Saar received a BA from Scripps College (Claremont, CA) in 1978, having studied African and Caribbean art with Dr. Samella Lewis. Her thesis focused on African-American folk art. She received an MFA from Otis Art Institute (Los Angeles, CA) 1981.
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Saar's work has been exhibited internationally with key exhibitions at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, L.A. Louver Gallery, Phyllis Kind Gallery in New York City, and Pasadena Museum of California Art. She was an artist in residence at Dartmouth College.
Her sculptures and installations explore themes of African cultural diaspora and spirituality, and her studies of Latin American, Caribbean and African art and religion have informed her work. Saar’s fascination with vernacular folk art and ability to build an oasis of beauty from cast-off objects are evident in her sculptures and paintings. Her highly personal, often life-sized sculptures are marked by their emotional candor, and by contrasting materials and messages that imbue her work with a high degree of cultural subtext.
Of Saar's 2006 exhibit "Coup", critic Rebecca Epstein wrote, “[Saar] demonstrates deft skill with seemingly unforgiving materials (bronze, lead, tar, wood). [She] juggles themes of personal and cultural identity as she fashions various sizes of female bodies (often her own) that are buoyant with story while solid in stance.”
Saar is a recipient of a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, an Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a City of Los Angeles (C.O.L.A.) Artist Fellowship. In 2012 she was named a Fellow of United States Artists.
Timeline of awards:
- 1984: Artist Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts; Artist in Residence, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY
- 1985: Engelhard Award, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; Artist in Residence, Roswell Museum of Art, Roswell, N.M; Artist, Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts
- 1986: Artist in Residence, November, Washington Project for the Arts
- 1988: Artist Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts
- 1989: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship
- 1999: Distinguished Alumnus of The Year, Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, CA
- 2003: Distinguished Alumna Award, Scripps College, Claremont, CA; Artist in residence, Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
- 2004: Received the COLA Grant, Los Angeles, CA
- 2005: Awarded the Excellence in Design Prize by the New York City Art Commission, New York, NY
 Saar's most well known exhibitions include "STILL . . ." Solo Exhibition, Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design. Review in Art in America.; Feallen and Fallow, Solo Exhibition, Madison Square Park, NY, Figge Art Museum, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and Alison Saar: Bearing – MoAD Museum of African Diaspora Timeline of her exhibitions:
- "Alison Saar: Hither", LA Louver, Venice, CA (solo)
- "Alison Saar Sculpture and Works on Paper", Rochester Contemporary Art Center, Rochester, NY (solo)
- "Alison Saar: Whither", Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
- "Day and Night", LA Louver, Venice, CA
- "Artists of Color-Paintings, Prints, Collage, Sculpture, and Quilts by African American Artists", Peltz Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
- "Alison Saar: Coup”, LA Louver, Venice, CA (solo)
- “Alison Saar”, Pasadena City College, CA (solo)
- “Alison Saar: Tete a Tete”, Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, MO
- "Lost/Found" Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
- "Alison Saar: Artist in Residence", Jaffe-Friede&Strauss Galleries, Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College, NH (solo)
- "Topsy Turvy, Sculpture by Alison Saar", ASU Art Museum, Tempe, AR (solo)
- "Bittersweet" Jan Baum Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
- "Alison Saar", Muse Boribana, DakArt Biennial, Dakar, Senegal (solo)
- “(Post)Teriors”, Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
- “Alison Saar”, Jan Baum Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
- "Exploring Identity: Work by Contemporary African American Women", Maier Museum of Art, Randolph-Macon Woman's College, Lynchburg, VA
- "The Swamp: On the Edge of Eden" Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL (solo)
- "Strength and Diversity: A Celebration of African-American Artists", Carpenter Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (solo)
- "Picturing the Amazon", New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY (solo)
- "Departures: 11 Artists at the Getty", The Getty Center, Los Angeles, CA
- "Passages: Contemporary Art in Transition", Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY;Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL;Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL
- "Body Politics: The Female Image in Luba Art and the Sculpture of Alison Saar," The UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles, CA
- "Alison Saar: Terra Incognita", Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
- "Alison Saar: Recent Work", Herron Gallery, Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN (solo)
- "Alison Saar," Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA (solo)
- "Political Visions", Fassbender Gallery, Chicago, IL (solo)
- "Bearing Witness: Contemporary Works by African-American Women Artists", Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, GA; Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, IN; Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland, FL; The Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA; African-American Museum, Dallas, TX; Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul, MN; Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC; Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, KS; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME;Museum of Fine Arts, Houston,TX; African-American History and Culture Museum, Fresno, CA
- "Sculpture by Alison Saar", The Trustees of The Saint-Gaudens Memorial, Cornish, NH (solo)
- "The Tip of the Iceberg: A Response to New York Museums", Dorfman Projects, New York, NY
- "American Stories", Setagaya Art Museum, Setagaya, Japan
- "Alison Saar: Hairesies", Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
- "Alison Saar", Jan Baum Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
- "Alison Saar", List Gallery, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA (solo)
- "Alison Saar", Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis, MO (solo)
- "Alison Saar: Strange Fruit", Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
- "Alison Saar: The Woods Within", The Brooklyn Museum, The Grand Lobby, Brooklyn, NY (solo)
- "Myth and Magic", California Center for the Arts Museum, Escondido, CA
- "Subjective Vision", Kipp Gallery, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA
- "A Labor of Love", The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY
- "Imaginary Beings", Exit Art, New York, NY
- "Art with Conscience", The Newark Museum, Newark, NJ
- "Twentieth Century American Sculpture at The White House", The White House, Washington DC
- Freedman Gallery Albright College, Reading, PA
- Biennial Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art New York, NY
- Installation, Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY
- Maryland Institute of Art Baltimore, MD
- Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH
- Roving Installation, Museum of Contemporary Art Baltimore, MD
- Palos Verdes Art Center, Palos Verdes, CA
- "Secrets, Dialogues, Revelations: The Art of Betye and Alison Saar", Wight Art Gallery, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
- "Celebrations: Sights and Sounds of Being", Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
- "The Decade Show: Frameworks of Identity in 1980s", New Museum; Studio Museum; Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art: New York, NY
- "Sculptural Revolution", Socrates Park, Long Island City, NY
- Biennial Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
- Jamaica Arts Center, Jamaica, NY
- Socrates Park, New York, NY
- The Queens Museum, New York, NY
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
- Monique Knowlton Gallery, New York, NY
- Artpark Niagara Falls, NY
- Jan Baum Gallery Los Angeles, CA
- Jan Baum Gallery Los Angeles, CA
- Phyllis Kind Gallery, NYC
- L.A. Louver Gallery
- New York Foundation for the Arts: Interview with Alison Saar
- 2009 Half-Hour TV Interview on The Creative Community
- KCRW Art Talk with Edward Goldman, "The Painful Beauty of Alison Saar's Stories," 2012
- Lewis, Samella (1990). African American Art and Artists. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 284–287. ISBN 0-520-08532-9. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
- "Alison Saar". Otis College of Art and Design. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
- Clark, Erin. "Alison Saar." Artworks Winter (2008): 33-40. Print.
- Wilson, Judith. "Down to the Crossroads: The Art of Alison Saar." Callaloo 14.1 (1991): 107-23. Web. .
- OtisCollege (October 14, 2008), Alison Saar, Otis, 1981, retrieved March 5, 2016
- "Alison Saar Biography – Alison Saar on artnet". www.artnet.com. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
- "In Residence | Hood Museum". hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
- Saar, Alison; Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts; Towson University (January 1, 2007). Duped: prints by Alison Saar : Towson University, March 16, 2007-April 14, 2007 : Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, April 20, 2007-August 5, 2007. Delaware: Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. ISBN 0-9785927-2-7.
- Body Politics, The Female Image in Luba Art and the Sculpture of Alison Saar. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 2001
- "LA Louver Gallery – Home". lalouver.com. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
- artist bio (pdf)
- "United States Artists". United States Artists. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
- "Massachusetts College of Art and Design | Alison Saar: STILL...". www.massart.edu. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
- "Figge Art Museum – Alison Saar: STILL...". figgeartmuseum.org. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
- "Alison Saar: Bearing – MoAD Museum of African Diaspora". MoAD Museum of African Diaspora. Retrieved February 25, 2016.