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Charles Alston

Charles Alston

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Published by: yourartteacher on Dec 20, 2011
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Artist: Charles AlstonTitle:
Family No. 1
Date of Work:1955
Dimensions 21
 x 16
in. / 55.2 x 41.3 cm
Charles Alston
(1907 - 77), painter, sculptor, muralist andteacher of art, was born in North Carolina. This importantartist has had a brilliant career studded with prizes andrecognition of his varied talents. He received his Bachelorof Arts and Master of Arts degrees from ColumbiaUniversity where he held a Dow Fellowship in 1931 andwas Rosenwald Fellow in Painting (1939 - 41). He didfurther graduate work at New York University and studiedart at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and the New York artStudents League, where he has been an instructor since1950. He was an Associate Professor of Art at theUniversity of the City of New York. Alston has exhibited inthe principal museums of the US and many of them counthis works in their permanent collections, as do a number of important art collectors. His murals may be found in such
institutions as the Museum of National History in NY,Harlem Hospital in LA, The City College of New York andAbraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn. His workencompasses many styles, from pure abstraction to almostpure realism. In the latter form, we may note the influenceof African sculpture. His work is always strong and highlyindividualistic; warm with rich color, sharp in blacks andclear whites, or soft and compassionate in texture and color.It is, in fact, so varied that it cannot be categorized, but it isalways masterly. Of himself he said that he is “interested…in the problems of color, space, and form, whichchallenge all contemporary painters” and this is the mostunderstandable when we remember his art training in thetraditional Western forms of culture. But Alston “feels aneed to relate to humanity in a more direct way…and as ablack American… is sensitive and responsive… to theinjustice, the indignity and hypocrisy suffered by blackcitizens”. Such responsiveness is, indeed, “the predicamentof any artist, black or white, concerned with the dignity of man”. Alston’s solution to the problem is to be the bestartist in any media that he can possibly be, and to be a trulyinspired teacher. Respected and loved by his colleagues andstudents, Alston has earned his place as one of the mostdistinguished artists in America.
Family No. 1
Family No. 1
(1955). A subtle balancing of shapes, formsand colors confers monumental dignity to this painting.Within a large, quite shallow frame, divided byarchitectural details are four humanized abstractions: male,female, two children. The members of this family arebound together by an affection created through carefullyindicated gestures and a tight circular composition. Theimpersonal Cubist handling of faces does not detract fromthe statuesque quality of the work for it adds needed depthand universal expression. The stylized figures thus becomesthe essence of the concept of any united family, of suchfamily’s inherent strength and understanding, and of itshuman dignity.

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