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The Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena and the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College, (formerly Pomona College Museum of Art) in Claremont are partnering to present Alison Saar: Of Aether and Earthe, an exhibition of artist Alison Saar’s work connected to myths and archetypes, invisible bodies and hidden histories, and timeless paradigms of grounding and transformation. Highlighting the dualities that are woven throughout her art, Alison Saar: Of Aether and Earthe explores and complicates the binaries of body and spirit, earth and air.
The exhibition title, Of Aether and Earthe, with its esoteric, alchemical connotations emphasizes this idea of dualities. In ancient and medieval science, aether represented the fifth element—a cosmic essence that exists in and around the other elements of earth, water, air, and fire. For Saar, this title suggests transformations of elemental properties: with aether representing the spiritual and non-material, and earthe—with the archaic spelling—suggesting a rootedness to physical materials.
Alison Saar: Of Aether and Earthe—one exhibition at two venues—will offer a survey of Saar’s sculptures, installations, paintings, and drawings. The Armory will showcase work that suggests elements of fire, air, and aether, while the Benton will highlight work that emphasizes grounded, earthly, and watery qualities.
Saar will create a new public artwork at Pomona College’s Benton Museum. The sculpture, a 12-foot-tall figure, represents Yemaja, a Yoruba deity, the goddess of all waters and mother of all living things. Yemaja is found throughout Africa and the Americas, and a protector of women and children with cleansing and healing attributes. The exhibition of sculptures and paintings will also include studies and maquettes related to this new work, providing insight into Saar’s research practice and artistic process.
The exploration of Saar’s process connects with the Armory’s interest in inclusive dialogue at the intersection of art, education, and community. The Armory will highlight a selection of Saar’s site-responsive installations and sculptures created by Saar over 30 years, such as Sapphire (1985), which depicts a female bust whose breasts have been built to serve as doors that open to a fiery heart, along with the restaging of Catfish Dreamin, a mobile sculpture of a house and 6-foot catfish that are mounted on a pickup truck, which will travel between the Armory and the Benton. The missions of the Armory and the Benton at Pomona College—art institutions rooted in education—reinforce Saar’s vision of providing critical insight into history and contemporary narratives.