Alan Saret (American, b. New York City 1944)
Sun Register, 1967
Painted galvanized steel
48 x 66 x 66 in. (121.9 x 167.6 x 167.6 cm), variable
Ruth C. Roush Fund for Contemporary Art, 1968
Sun Register exemplifies Saret's early post-minimalist sculpture in its use of inexpensive industrial materials, and its lyrical evocation of the natural world. Incorporating painterly gesture and insisting on complex, mutable form, these works represented a direct challenge to Minimalist doctrine.
Sun Register dates to 1967, one year before Saret's first one-person show at the Bykert Gallery, New York, and two years before his inclusion in three group exhibitions: the Annual Exhibition of 1968 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Oberlin's Three Young Americans, and 9 in a Warehouse at Leo Castelli.1 (Sun Register was included in the Oberlin show as "Painted wire.")
The present title of the Oberlin work refers to the ever-unfolding physical world, as do the titles of other works of the period.2 Saret's unconventional medium--fencing wire--is malleable, indeterminate, and insubstantial, and highly suitable for his casually composed, intentionally temporary, and unimposing forms.3 In the Oberlin piece Saret subverted both the gridlike orderliness of this medium and its purpose, the delineation of boundaries. He twisted rectangular sections of wire together and wadded them up into a centerless and rootless organic form that can rest lightly on the floor. To reiterate the sculpture's transient, nonhierarchical nature, the artist provided an alternate method of installation in which one section is hung on the wall, and the other sections cascade to the floor and spill out across it. The airiness of the work reveals its simple mode of construction while conjuring up the artist's actions in the formation of the irregular shape. At the same time the diffused form appears, and is, vulnerable and impermanent.4 Pictorial and painterly concerns are also strongly evident in Sun Register. Max Kozloff, in describing a similar work in the Whitney Annual of 1968, noted that the artist "creates a giant wire tumbleweed, stapled on the wall, which moves out into a hazy entanglement not dissimilar from the gestural idiom of Abstract Expressionism."5 Saret, who studied painting before turning to sculpture, blurred the lines between sculpture and painting in the Oberlin work by unevenly spray painting the strands of wire in soft shades of yellow and blue-green.6 Further challenging the notion of formal categories in art, Saret produced large numbers of drawings which, while not preliminary studies for his three-dimensional work, were created in tandem with them and often exhibited together in the same installation. A summary of the ideas expressed in the wire sculptures materialized in Ghosthouse (1975), a monumental diaphanous steel mesh structure erected at Artpark (Lewiston, New York), which the artist built and lived in for four months. This hybrid project combined the ephemeral nature of Saret's chosen materials with the temporal quality of performance.
Saret was born in New York City on 25 December 1944. He received a bachelor's degree in architecture from Cornell University (1966) and subsequently studied with Robert Morris at Hunter College (1966-68). As Saret's sculpture began to increase in scale and complexity, he began exhibiting outside the commercial gallery network and in 1970 founded Spring Palace, an alternative exhibition space that also housed his studio. Returning from a three-year stay in India, Saret established a foundation, ALAEL, dedicated to "self-realization and enlightenment through art," and the spiritual dimension of art remains a primary concern for the artist. His work is included in numerous public collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Detroit Institute of Arts; and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.
Marshall, Richard. Developments in Recent Sculpture. Exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1981.Alan Saret: Matter into Aether. Exh. cat., Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, Calif., 1982. With essays by Klaus Kertess and Alan Saret.
Alan Saret/Had Heaven: Phase III. Exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y., 1983. With essay by Charlotta Kotik.
Working in Brooklyn: Sculpture. Exh. cat., The Brooklyn Museum, New York, 1985. With essay by Charlotta Kotik.
Purchased from the artist in May 1968
Oberlin, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, 1968. Three Young Americans. 17 April - 12 May. Checklist in Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 25, no. 3 (Spring 1968), p. 103 (as "Painted wire").
Cleveland, New Gallery, 1969. Group Exhibition. 8 - 29 November. No cat.
Oberlin, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, 1980. From Reinhardt to Christo: Works Acquired through the Benefaction of the Late Ruth C. Roush. 20 February - 19 March. Cat. no. 34.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1990. The New Sculpture 1965-75: Between Geometry and Gesture. 20 February - 3 June (also shown at Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art). Cat. no. 59.
Johnson, Ellen H., and Athena T. Spear. "Three Young Americans: Krueger, Naumann, Saret." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 25, no. 3 (Spring 1968), pp. 98, 100-101, 103.
Live in your head. Exh. cat, Kunsthalle, Bern, 1971, under cat. no. 89, fig. 3.
Kertess, Klaus. Alan Saret: Matter into Aether. Exh. cat., Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, Calif., 1982, ill. p. 27.
Armstrong, Richard, and Richard Marshall. The New Sculpture 1965-75: Between Geometry and Gesture. Exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1990, cat. no. 59, ill. p. 90.
Gardner, Colin. "Alan Saret/Dan Weinberg Gallery," Artforum 29, no. 7 (March 1991), p. 138.
This sculpture is made of many rectangular sections of galvanized steel fencing joined together by twisting. The sections are spray-painted blue-green and yellow, generally blue-green on one side and yellow on the other. Light corrosion is present overall and there are extensive paint losses.
When installed, some of the wire sections can be hung from the wall, extending down and out onto the floor. The sculpture can also, as here, be installed by piling all of the sections together on the floor.
1. The three exhibitons were: Mountains of Chance, Documents of Ruralism . . . Changing Manufactures, Bykert Gallery, New York; Annual Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Three Young Americans: Krueger, Nauman, Saret, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin (organized by Ellen H. Johnson and Athena Tacha Spear); and 9 in a Warehouse at Leo Castelli, New York (organized by Robert Morris, Saret's professor at Hunter College, and held in an Upper West Side warehouse). The latter exhibition included work by Eva Hesse and Richard Serra, among others.
2. For example, Mesh Makes Mountain, 1969, reconstructed 1990, collection of the artist; Folding Glade, 1969-70, New York, The Museum of Modern Art; Sulfur Falls, 1968, reconstructed 1990, collection of the artist; Zinc Cloud, 1967, collection of the artist; Green Wave of Air, 1968-69, collection of Andrew Fabricant; and Hollow Mountain, 1968, private collection. According to the artist, although many of these early works were originally untitled, their connection to the physical world was reinforced through the subsequent assignment of titles, some of which evolved over a number of years. The Oberlin piece, for example, acquired its title in the years between its creation and its reproduction in the 1982 Newport Harbor Art Museum exhibition catalogue, Alan Saret: Matter into Aether.
3.Other works of the period were made of similarly flexible materials, such as stainless-steel mesh, rubber, and electrical wire.
4. Sun Register was acquired by Oberlin soon after its creation: this ensured its survival. Many of the other early wire sculptures have been lost. For Saret's views on the reconstruction of lost work, see his "Reincarnated Concept or Repeated Gesture: An Experience in Remaking Sculpture," Art in America 78, no. 7 (July 1990), p. 118.
5. Max Kozloff, "9 in a Warehouse: An Attack on the Status of the Object," Artforum 7 (February 1969), p. 40.
6.Max Kozloff ("9 in a Warehouse: An Attack on the Status of the Object," Artforum 7 [February 1969], p. 42) saw in the painted chicken wire sculptures of 1969 an "affinity with the atmospheric lyricism to be found in much current spray painting."