Alan Turner: Sanctuary
The arc of human life is long, but it begins in a tiny space. Evicted from the womb at birth, we make our way in the great world yearning for the amniotic lodge we were forced from. Our impulse to "nest" is but a sidelong struggle to resolve the spatial trauma of birth, to recreate the placid sanctuary of the womb in proxy form. Alan Turner's Box House drawings and paintings, the focus of this exhibition, manifest that most primal of human needs — for sanctuary, shelter, and refuge. Turner has lived and worked from the same Tribeca loft for 32 years. From its windows he witnessed the destruction of the World Trade Center and the more recent soft assaults of gentrification. Diminutive in scale and subject, the Box House series exhibits none of the heroics or monumentality of Turner's earlier work, but embody instead the humility and redacted ambition of age. He began the series in the wake of 9/11 and as pressure mounted toward his own eviction from his Franklin Street loft. The works depict cardboard boxes as proto-architectural spaces reminiscent of childhood hideaways that call to mind Gaston Bachelard's "day-dreams of refuge," where the body "huddles up to itself, takes to cover, hides away, lies snug, concealed." The box-house drawings featured in the exhibition are one artist's appeal for stability in a city buffeted by the winds of creative destruction.
Turner was born in 1943 and grew up in the Bronx, the son of a motion picture projectionist and a clerk at Sterns Department Store. He studied art at City College and the University of California–Berkeley, and first exhibited solo work in Cologne, Germany in 1971. The recipient of three NEA grants and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Turner's drawings and paintings may be found in the permanent collections of MoMA, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.