February 01 1956 - present
Photograph of Alison Saar, by Paul O'Conner, courtesy of the artist
Place of Birth:
Drawings and prints, Painting, Sculpture
Assemblage Artist, Mixed Media Artist
, Printmaker, Sculptor, Woodcutter
Alison Saar was born in Los Angeles, California in 1956. Her mother, acclaimed collagist and assemblage artist Betye Saar, and father Richard Saar, a painter and art conservator, encouraged Alison and her sister Lezley to pursue their interests in art and helped broaden their artistic awareness by introducing them to various styles in books and at museums. While in high school, Saar began assisting her father with his conservation work. She accredits this experience with helping her realize her interest in sculpture.
Saar studied studio art and art history at Scripps College in Claremont, California from 1974 to 1978, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History. She wrote her undergraduate thesis on African-American folk art
and outsider art, and continued to incorporate elements of these genres in her own work. Using found objects and scraps of ordinary materials, Saar, experienced in printmaking, began experimenting with sculpture. She earned her Master of Fine Arts from the Otis Art Institute in 1981, and held her first solo exhibition at the Jan Baum Gallery the following year.
Saar’s work is often associated with her mother’s art. Saar, her mother, and sister all create work that discusses their individual experiences and reactions to developing personal and cultural identity. Saar, desiring to establish herself and her work more independently, moved from Los Angeles in 1983. She became an artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem and began incorporating found objects more unique to the city environment for her newly adapted themes. Her large wooden sculptures in rough-hewn wood represent African-American figures and are adorned with scraps of hammered ceiling tin, wire, glass, and nails.
Saar’s sculptures often draw from the history of African-American suffering in the American South. Her figures sometimes hang as if lynched, or are disembodied as decapitated heads. Her later work began to address broader issues of homelessness, suffering, and death. Saar has achieved national recognition for her sculptures and woodcut prints and has held exhibitions at a number of galleries and museums including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC.
Place(s) of Residence:
Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design, Los Angeles, CA, USA (1981)
Scripps College, Claremont, CA, USA, (1974-1978)
Related Visual Artists:
daughter of Betye Saar
daughter of Richard Saar
sister of Lezley Saar
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Fellowship, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, New York, NY, USA (1989)
Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC, USA (1988)
Artist in Residence, Washington Project for the Arts, Washington, DC, USA (1986)
Alison Saar, Jan Baum Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, USA (1982)
From the Collection: Contemporary Figurative Prints
Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997
Steven Scott Collects: Donations and Promised Gifts to the Permanent Collection
Directions - Alison Saar, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA (1993)