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Vintage fabrics base of Saar’s prints

February 3, 2019

Vintage handkerchiefs and quilts, antique sugar sacks, and old shop rags provide the foundations for limited edition fine art prints created by artist Alison Saar at Tandem Press in Madison. An exhibit of her recent work, “Alison Saar: Printmaker,” is on view in the Tandem Press Apex Gallery, 1743 Commercial Ave., until April 6.

Figures of the human body are prominent in Saar’s artwork. However, her priority lies not within the figurative representation of the human body, but in engaging viewers in an ongoing dialogue regarding racism, sexism, and ageism. The African diaspora, as well as her own personal encounters are reflected in Saar’s prints.

Fables and myths that influenced the notions of history are often alluded to in Saar’s works. Elements of folk art and spirituality from African, Caribbean, Latin American, and Haitian cultures, along with American slave narratives and music are seen in her works, as well.

The vintage handkerchiefs and quilts, antique sugar sacks, and old shop rags amplify the content and concept within Saar’s imagery.

“I chose to print on a sugar sack quilt because it speaks of a generation of the poor that recycled the sacks once used to sell sugar,” Saar said in regard to her “Cotton Eater” print in the Tandem Press Fall 2014 newsletter. “The sugar sack quilt in particular was used to the point where it was worn thin and painstakingly patched and mended. The stains also speak of the quilt’s long history of use, and ‘experience.’ Another reason I’m attracted to the sugar sacks is the dark history of sugar and cotton as the primary crops that were complicit in fostering the slave trade in America.”

Working with Tandem Press since 2014, Saar primarily uses woodcut printmaking techniques in creating her fine art prints. She also creates sculptures and assemblages in her Los Angeles studio.

Born in Los Angeles, Saar and her siblings grew up in an artistic environment with artist parents Betye Saar and Richard Saar. Her work can be found in numerous museum collections including the Chazen Museum of Art, which also holds one of her mother’s pieces.