Alan Scarritt: Fort. Night. Lair.

Art Review by Donald Goddard


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Alan Scarritt's ambitions are alchemical. The assumption is that everything in the world has meaning (contrary to the post-modern certainty about no meaning), including the contexts within which meanings are understood. The body and brain are themselves connective organisms around and within which connections are constantly made. This does not mean that meanings can be known. Inside the fort it is night where the mysteries coil in their lair, their hiding or sleeping place. Everything in the world can be described in terms of its purpose or use; there is a continuum of objects on which we depend. From this we posit, hopefully, other continuums, which might lead from lead to gold, from life to everlasting life. But there are places where the logic of one continuum is interfered with by the logic of another, creating a third area in which the connections are intuited or unknown. This is Scarritt's own particular lair.
Skull Verbs Fire
Alan Scarritt
Skull with Verbs and Fire 1996
Oil, graphite and photo on Paper
22 1/2" X 18 1/2"

The group of about ten works under the heading "Fort. Night. Lair," mostly from the 1990s, some from the '80s, has been gathered in memory of Mark Lombardi, whose own work concerned patterns of political corruption. Underlying the selection is, as Scarritt describes it, a "meditation on obsession," as it applies, obviously, to both artists. The obsession, I suppose, is with numbers and patterns as a way of organizing and perceiving, and ultimately with the area where different patterns intersect. In fact, the initial work is a small photogram of 1980 in which Scarritt's hands frame an intersecting area between a circle and a spiral drawn in water. It describes an elemental vagary, but the shape, the focus, is there.

Correspondences abound. One thing follows another. The shape between the hands coming together, which might be taken as a Zen Buddhist gesture, becomes a zero, becomes a noose. Zero leads to one, from the void to the figure, but what is between zero and one. Increments, certainly, but then what is between the increments. Wave theory and particle theory exist side by side, but there is still something missing. There are correspondences from one realm of things to another, from void to solid, water to flame, chaos to structure. The central glut of imagery is Flame, 1998, a conglomeration of wire hanging from the wall that represents drawing in space at its most primitive and inclusive. The figure is a zero or head with a shoe horn as a phallus or tongue; it contains the word oui, below which is a flame pit and tongue that only threaten to burn up and perhaps transform this "glittering dross," an obsolete definition of alchemy.
Flame
Alan Scarritt
Flame, 1998
Wire, paint and metal
30" X 53" x 14"

The references are to beyond and beyond and beyond, or, as Helen Keller wrote, "There is always more." A Cypress Tree (in the Courtyard), 2000, begins inside a diagram of the human inner ear, with the diagram obscured and the word "EAR" blared and smudged in black tar and white wax, both hardened after burning. The wire circle of a dart board, numbered chaotically one through twenty, creates a larger context and rather random system that refers back to the numbered parts of the inner ear, and the koan of the title, "A Cypress Tree (in the Courtyard)" creates another larger, different context that nonetheless echoes the images and relationships already described. There is always more, and the eruptions of the dross tar and wax are the agents, but the more is perhaps also the same.

Donald Goddard 2000

Cypress Tree Courtyard
Alan Scarritt
A Cypress Tree in the Courtyard, 2000
Tar, wax, graphite xerox on velum mounted on paper

Exhibition organized for the Willoughby Sharp Gallery. Tel. 212-753-8318. Fax 212-935-5930.


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