new-york

Alison Saar

Monique Knowlton Gallery

Alison Saar’s works have a certain kind of sweet elegance. The debate I have with them is whether or not they make the primitive, the out cast, coyly acceptable. The work deals generally with black men and women; in their physical isolation, each is sanctified as an icon. The figures are realized in a variety of media: wood (less crudely carved than one might expect), ceramic, cloth, and graphite and collage. I preferred the statues and reliefs; the added dimension made them less blatantly illustrative. Content becomes easy to swallow by reason of its suave theatricality, a kind of vernacular estheticization of the primitive that can become cute and dubiously humorous, as in Dog Gone, 1985, a sequined canine portrait in the style of a traditional Haitian voodoo flag.

In whatever terms I talk about these works I feel caught in cliches, but the work itself deals in the banal, combining cliches

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