Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Lezley Saar: Monad Series



Lezley Saar

Not born under a rhyming planet, 2014.


Lezley Saar (daughter of Betye Saar, sister of Alison Saar) is at once a highly pictorial artist, centered on the figure, and a highly literary one, centered on the narrative. But Saar treats neither figure nor narrative with much traditional elaboration, much less decorum. Her sense of fantasy, indeed of whimsy, simply won’t allow her to. As a result, Saar’s latest paintings (which incorporate digital photography), small and vibrant, seem to hybridize various traditions of book illustration, from children’s literature to Medieval manuscripts to the marvelous books of the Rajput kings. Certainly, their luminosity, their free play with scale and context, and their focus on the human figure – indeed, very specific human figures (whose identities are for the most part only obliquely revealed) – insist that the observer pick through the various elements, consider their various juxtapositions, and determine motif and motivation equally for the artist and her subjects. This is in fact something of a retreat from the overtly writerly paintings and collages that constituted Saar’s previous body of work; her ear for poetry goes missing here, but is replaced by an equally persuasive poetry of the eye.

LezleySaarCellestial Bridge 2014

Celestial Bridge, 2014.


Bemused resignation, 2014.

LezleySaarMonad Series 2014

This is even truer in the “Monad” collages, bristling with Dada cheek and Surrealist enchantment and full of wondrous and silly surprises. Here, Saar places herself in a more specific tradition, answering to Joseph Cornell, Hannah Höch, Max Ernst, George Hugnet, and Bruce Conner, but looking like none of them; just as each of those masters could paste together papers not quite like any of the others, Saar can conjure richly colored, almost painterly montages whose opulence, dreamy chattiness, and buoyant sass is all their own. (from Arts Blog, Huffington Post, 2015)