Alchemical Art

Raymond Saunders is far from the only artist to use street detritus in his work, but he's among the most powerful of those who do. He's won almost every art award you can win, is part of important permanent collections (the Whitney? The Met? Heard of 'em?), and he's turned down invitations to teach at Yale, Harvard, and the Rhode Island School of Design. At his current exhibit, “Pittsburgh,” it's abundantly clear why: Pieces of candy wrappers, masonite, and handbills turn into world-class art. Many of Saunders' works feature a matte black background underneath his famous colors — he seems to favor deep pinks, some red, and bricky orange in “Pittsburgh.” In nearly all of them, threadlike white lines tremble, and paint-blob flowers nestle into the corners: These are the ties that bind blocks of wallpaper, gum foil, and barber's charts into something so much greater than the sum of its parts. Majestic, delicate urns perch on ledges, and more morning glories emerge the longer you look. The first thing you see when you walk into the gallery announces another facet of Saunders' art: A printed sign says “Symposium: What Makes Black Art Black? A lecture featuring Raymond Saunders, Odetta, and others.” It looks to have been made in the 1970s or before, and it's offered without comment as part of a large assemblage.
Nov. 28-Dec. 22, 2007

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