Hooch n' Haint from the Copacetic portfolio, 2019.
Alison Saar (American, born 1956)
Linocut on handmade Japanese Hamada kozo paper, 19 1/2 x 18 in. Crocker Art Museum purchase with funds provided by the Marcy and Mort Friedman Acquisition Fund; and Janet Mohle-Boetani, M.D., and Mark Manasse, 2019.60.2. © Alison Saar. Photo: Courtesy of Catharine Clark Gallery and Mullowney Printing.

In 1991 Alison Saar created a series of bronze relief sculptures for the Harlem-125th Street train station in New York. Titled Hear the Lone Whistle Moan, the series includes a woman traveling to the city, a man leaving the city, and a train conductor at the top of the station’s stairs. Together, the figures reference the Underground Railroad and the movement of people in and out of New York throughout history.

Saar expanded the project in 2018, creating a series of twenty-four laminated glass panels for shelters lining the platform. Each panel of this Copacetic series depicts aspects of cultural life during the Harlem Renaissance. When seen together, it offers a panoramic view of dancers, musicians, singers, and revelers.

A year later, Saar published her Copacetic portfolio, a suite of eight multi-block linocuts that reference the Harlem-125th Street project and the Harlem Renaissance. Inspired by “the many great African American artists of the Harlem Renaissance that had active printmaking practices, such as Elizabeth Catlett, Hale Woodruff, and Aaron Douglas,” Saar’s prints reinforce Harlem’s vibrant history and enduring legacy.

Hooch, as the title states, references bootleg liquor. Haint suggests a ghost or evil spirit. The term haint stems from the Gullah people, enslaved individuals from Western and Central Africa and their descendants, living in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. In Alison Saar’s print, cigarette smoke wafts through the air to form a mandorla made of hair around the ghost. Hair, a marker of racial identity, is a subject often explored by Saar in her work. The ghost and background, a vibrant blue, also point to indigo, a cash crop tied to plantations in the American South which used enslaved African people to cultivate it.

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