Archive for June, 2015

Big Al is Definitely ‘Larger than Life’

“I don’t really have a style. I just do it. I love lines, I feel lines. I see something, I say, ‘Man, that’s nice!’” – Allen B. Carter
This month the ASU Art Museum is presenting the work of the talented but humble Allen “Big Al” Carter, and looking at the legacy he left behind, I admire many characteristics of his work.

Photo by Tom Story

Photo by Tom Story. 

Sketched and painted with thin to thickened lines, he expresses a variety of emotions through his artwork, as well as through his dominate color choice of green and blue tones. In the exhibition of work currently on view at the ASU Art Museum, titled Big Al: Larger than Life (now through Aug. 22, 2015), each painting depicts African American life as Big Al saw it —from portraits of both the rich and the poor to art made on wooden chairs, lamp shades, and even on a wooden room divider —reflecting his compulsive habit to make art on and with almost anything. Comparing one artwork to another, Carter has a style that is distinct and I am able to notice the difference in emotion, energy, and scene which I feel is what makes his art “larger than life.” He is a painter that paints from the heart, for the world, for freedom of his expression, and seeks to illustrate how he views individuals in society, including many people in his own life that he’s known.

Allen B. Carter, "Carp." Mixed media, 29 x 50 in. (Image courtesy Vanderbilt University / Steve Green)

Allen B. Carter, “Carp.” Mixed media, 29 x 50 in. (Image courtesy Vanderbilt University / Steve Green)

In this exhibition, one work titled Carp showcases his unique technique and style. Viewing this piece, I found that it was different from the rest because of the combination of two separate artworks combined as one. It’s one of several works that depicts an individual fishing. Through my research about Carter, I found that his art often recaps some of his life experiences; his love for fishing is incorporated in many of his artworks. He also utilizes different types of unconventional materials — including using Popsicle sticks that adhere to the canvas and are painted over to add a unique texture.

The texture he creates in these depictions of fisherman at sea draws you in the painting. In the top portion of the painting, he uses the Popsicle sticks in place of the sky, and then transitions into creating a more monochromatic and sketch-like picture. Most of his work seems to leave the viewer open to their own ideas. Through his sort of playful approach you can tell he had compulsive desire to make art with anything he could get his hands on. Even though Big Al was a classically trained artist, he did like to refer to himself as an “outsider” artist. He focused on making his art speak for itself, which I think he achieved.

Photo by Tom Story

Photo by Tom Story. 

On another piece, a painted wooden room divider titled Intense, his usage of color depicts different types of emotions. The color selection perfectly describes the title of this painting. This piece is only painted on one side, perhaps so that all viewers stand in front of it together. I had the opportunity to take a group of second grade students on a tour of this exhibition, and as we gathered in front of this piece, I asked them what emotions are associated with the colors in the painting. In response, the kids were able to distinguish the shades of blues and greens associated with the feelings of sadness and despair.  They were energetic and very eager to get close to the art, and I know that this colorful exhibition heightened their excitement.

Photo by Tom Story

Photo by Tom Story

As a viewer, looking at Big Al’s artwork, you are encompassed by his life, the people in it, and his passion to create art on objects you would have never think to paint on. I hope that everyone will make a visit to the ASU Art Museum and leave with an idea of who Big Al was, his personality, and the artistic products of his unique way of living.

— Leilani Solema, Public Relations and Marketing Intern 

Big Al: Larger Than Life is on view in the Kresge Gallery at the ASU Art Museum through Aug. 22, 2015. All works in this exhibition are on loan from Flora Stone and Cecilia Carter. This exhibition is supported by the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Evelyn Smith Exhibition Fund. Big Al: Larger than Life was curated by Dana and Steven Tepper and was designed by Stephen Johnson, chief preparator.  

June 30, 2015 at 6:01 pm Leave a comment

Evolving Interpretations of Family in ‘Family Matters’

“Like mother, like daughter.” I’m sure most of us have heard this saying before and even I tend to use it extensively to describe the profound impact that my mother has had on me. In looking around the Family Matters exhibition at the ASU Art Museum, on view now through Aug. 1, 2015, I see that I am not the only person who shares this sentiment. In many ways, the things that we learn from our parents leave a lasting impression on us and the things that we hold important in our lives. From being taught manners at the dinner table or inheriting a profound strength from a lost relative, the past struggles and lessons that prior generations leave behind surround the things that we value in our lives.

Photo May 11, 12 21 09 PM

In the exhibition, in a work by artist June Mayer, Leaving 1907 (Plate 1, the Dorothy Series), the artist references her mother’s strength. After her mother, Dorothy Kline, passed away, Mayer produced a portfolio of prints entitled The Dorothy Series that told her mother’s life story. Mayer is a printer and founder of Tamarind Lithography Workshop that first opened in Los Angeles and is now based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The work featured in the exhibition shows a print of her mother and her family leaving their home country for America — a difficult feat. The artist breaks barriers on her own as a woman artist pioneering in her medium and with her business; much like her mother did in traveling to America.

June Wayne,

June Wayne, “Leaving 1907 (plate 1, the ‘Dorothy Series’), 1976. (detail) Lithograph, 12 1/4 x 16 7/8 in. From the ASU Art Museum permanent collection, gift of Dr. & Mrs. Malcolm Dorfman.

Another standout work is a print by Miguel Palma, Untitled (Neil Armstrong), which touches on some different, but important family matters. The print features a photograph of Neil Armstrong and his family from an old magazine. The baby in the picture was cut away from the rest of the family and placed above, as a sort of tribute to the next generation of space explorers. The print was also designed in response to the jump by Felix Baumgartner in October 2012, as a tribute to human endurance. Outfitted in a specially designed space suit, Baumgartner jumped out of a space capsule at 24 miles above the earth, diving back down to earth at speeds up to 800 miles-per-hour, breaking the sound barrier. The print was created while Palma was an artist-in-residence with the ASU Art Museum, participating in a Desert Initiative project and creating work for his exhibition that was held at the museum in 2012. Palma was interested in “the history of Manifest Destiny and colonialism in populated places, strategies of adaptation and the role of technology in desert survival” as well as the “decreasing terrestrial exploration and increasing extraterrestrial exploration.” This print was one from a monoprint series through which Palma probed these concerns and celebrated the beginning of the space exploration.

Miguel Palma,

Miguel Palma, “Untitled (Neil Armstrong),” 2012. Monotype, collage, 22 1/2 x 30 1/4 in. From the ASU Art Museum permanent collection; acquired through the Desert Initiative Monoprint Project sponsored by Eddie Shea and Ridge Smidt.

While this may seem like it relates more to science than to family, this print touches on the idea of consecutive generations either equaling or surpassing their successor’s feats and accomplishments. Neil Armstrong was at the frontier of space exploration in his day when he took the first steps on the moon. While walking on the moon is still a huge step in extraterrestrial history, breaking the sound barrier while falling 24 miles back to earth definitely has its own place in the history of the exploration of space and human limitations. While the two men were not family, Palma decides to feature them in the same print to attest to the idea of them as two different generations of explorers with one building off the advances and accomplishments of the other.

Miguel Palma,

Miguel Palma, “Untitled (Neil Armstrong),” 2012. (detail) Monotype, collage, 22 1/2 x 30 1/4 in. From the ASU Art Museum permanent collection; acquired through the Desert Initiative Monoprint Project sponsored by Eddie Shea and Ridge Smidt.

The same theme is present in other works in the exhibition, as well. Like Father, Like Son by Patti Warashina is one example. In this case, what the new generation inherits is physical characteristics. The piece was created after the birth of the artist’s grandson and represents the discussions surrounding a child’s birth about which parent the child resembles, a discussion that many families today like to have. It also attests to those things we receive from our parents and grandparents that we may not necessarily have control over.

Patti Warashina,

Patti Warashina, “Like Father, Like Son,” 2000. (detail) Ceramic, 68 x 16 3/4 x 12 1/2 in. From the ASU Art Museum permanent collection, gift of Sara and David Lieberman.

The exhibition Family Matters features work that seeks to bring to light the evolving interpretations of family and the things that matter to them. It has also brought to light where we receive these values from and why. This collection of works speaks to what type of impacts the past generations have upon us. Families can make all the difference in who we choose to become or what we choose to do, but chances are with the advancements and new things that time brings, it’s never exactly the same and cannot always be controlled. However, these effects are important in the present and will continue to be important in the future. Family truly does matter, even when they aren’t around anymore.

— Hannah Weston, Public Relations and Marketing Intern

Family Matters is on view through Aug. 1, 2015 in the lower level galleries at the ASU Art Museum. The exhibition is supported by the Evelyn Smith Exhibition Fund, members of the ASU Art Museum and the Stulgaitis Family Scholastic Award in honor of Helen Flecha Polina.

All photos by Hannah Weston. 

June 1, 2015 at 8:53 pm Leave a comment


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