CHARLES KEELING LASSITER:
AN OUTSIDER LOOKING INWARD
MAIN GALLERY MAY 18 - JUNE 22
RECEPTION MAY 18 6 - 8 PM
Exhibition made possible by:
Photos of the artist and his home
Charles Lassiter was a reclusive artistic genius active during the era of Pollock, Rothko, and the Abstract Expressionists. He rejected trends of Minimalism and Pop Art and produced lively, surreal figurative work in line with the visions of Jean Dubuffet and Paul Klee.
Lassiter’s work has been in exhibits and is in collections of the MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Yale, and the Carnegie. However, due to his extreme agoraphobia, Lassiter struggled to build art world relationships crucial for exhibiting his art while he was alive. BDAC is thrilled to be able to share his gifts after his death.
From the private collection of Stan Kaplan, Boca Raton, FL
When Charles Keeling Lassiter [1926-2005] broke from the mainstream of the art world in the 1950s, he was ignoring the dominance of Pollock, Rothko, and the Abstract Expressionists. And he continued to reject the subsequent movements of Pop Art, Op Art, and Minimalism. Instead, his paintings are more spiritually aligned with those of Ensor, Dubuffet, and Klee. The central characters in his journeys are lively calligraphic figures, quizzical portraits, and bizarre animals, each invigorating either canvas or paper as their surreal dance floors.
Lassiter lived entirely alone and became agoraphobic. He never read books or newspapers and only occasionally left his little Manhattan apartment. He absorbed how people reacted to the city’s contrasting energies — from its moral chaos and cacophony of 42nd Street to the languorous figures on benches in Central Park. Returning to his studio, he became a deep diver forging into the unconscious as he focused intently upon his art. “For the type of work I do,” he said, “you have to be alone, to think alone — You have to just observe and capture that inner source.” In 1956, curators from the Museum of Modern Art were the first to recognize his work and featured it in a contemporary drawings exhibition. In addition to MoMA, his works can be now found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Lassiter was obsessed with creating figures, which are so spontaneous in their story-telling that recognizing their masterful control requires careful contemplation. We soon become engaged in his delightful game of discovery and quickly find his joy, whimsy, and celebration of life. The ensemble, like prehistoric glyphs on a cave wall, appear woven with a narrative magic that seems to embody the essence not only of his own life experience but that of all of us. He referred to the process as his “stream of consciousness” where there is “no external control.”
Works on paper by Charles Keeling Lassiter. Click images for titles and to enlarge.