Alan Saret, “Gang Drawings”
In 10th-century Japan, a new phonetic shorthand, kana, evolved as an alternative to Chinese script. Unsuitable for business transactions because of its informal nature, but singular for its ability to convey great emotion, kana became the lexical choice of poets; it is the language in which The Tale of Genji, the oldest recorded romance, is written. To walk into the Alan Saret exhibition, “Gang Drawings,” comprising works on paper and wire sculptures spanning the ’60s to the present, is to experience a similar divergence of his work from the language of Minimalism and witness the creation of a new set of morphemes that form the basis of his unique and exceedingly expressive visual vocabulary.
All of the drawings in the show were made by pulling, pushing, dragging or shimmying fistfuls of colored pencils across the page. The resulting groupings of lines connote landscapes, hair clots, scattered grasses; all are clearly part of an experimentation with the drawn mark as base unit of visual language, an effort mirrored in titles that often consist of made-up words. Saret’s contribution to Postminimalism is the simple marriage of process to the infinitely variable hand gesture, and is elegantly epitomized in one of the earliest dated drawings in the show.
Called Half Circles and Sweep Circuit (1967), the work may be a nod to Saret’s interest in architecture and engineering. The ingress and egress of marks to and from a sort of racetrack form is balanced sublimely by the sensitivity of stroke, and the ever-so-slight violence of surrounding staccato traces. This willingness to probe the roots of a way of communicating still registers with freshness and force today.—Tova Carlin