Essays & Reviews
FEBRUARY 16, 2021
Conversations with Alan Disparte
Today we’d like to introduce you to Alan Disparte.
Hi Alan, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
Lucky is the word I’d use to describe my childhood: growing up, my parents let me draw on everything. I remember an extra thrill when I was seven – my dad encouraged me to paint characters on the van he used to deliver plants for his nursery business. I loved making a positive impression on strangers along his delivery route and creating my own characters and storylines anywhere with any medium. This was my first attempt at integrating art and commerce. I’ve always been drawn to counterculture, in particular its use of symbols to give voice to activism. Concert posters, album packaging and innovation in television programming equally attracted me. As a result, I started a career as a multimedia artist.
These visual influences are reflected in my creative work with Capitol Records, Paisley Park, Virgin Records and others. I’ve always loved music, entertainment and fashion – they offered creative space for a young artist to bridge the gap between design, music and the visual arts. When I began working as a graphic designer, I specialized in hand lettering. It was such a tactile physical experience. It all felt like art to me. On occasion, I still work on commercial projects. My deepest commitment is to my fine art practice. It serves as a form of therapy and expression, free from the restrictions of client-based design. Creating art is my personal bliss: I find it meditative and often lose myself in the process. I came to Austin through one of my best friends: I took several trips here and knew that I could live in this city. I love its landscape. My home and studio are next to a nature preserve with sweeping views of lush greenery. Wildlife here never sleeps and the woods are always alive. This resilient nature inspires me to live as fully as possible.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Making art is an act of faith. It takes diligence to dig into the dirt and commit to the process of investigation, especially when you start from nothing. Having life experiences and a good imagination to draw from also help. I’ve brought my own brand of weird to Austin: there’s room here to do so. What’s perhaps unusual to other people is often normal to me. I accepted that some time ago. And that brings freedom.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I feel I’ve come full circle when I think of my ancestors who migrated from Sicily to Louisiana, then Texas in the 1800’s. My family demonstrated this same resilience to overcome adversity in search of a place to call home. This history informs my own experience in Austin, where I fully find refuge in art. You can see most of my art and videos on Instagram: quiet_corners Photography Instagram: disparteranch.
Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc?
Hollywood Babylon one and two by Kenneth Anger
On Waldon Pond by Henry David Thoreau
The Camera Artist, Poems by Joan E. Bauer
Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic: The Aesthetics of Consumerism, by Daniel Harris
Supergirls by Mike Madrid
Instagram Illustrator Photoshop Stopmotion App.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: alandisparte.com
- Instagram: quiet_corners
- Tik Tok: www.tiktok.com/@disparteranch
Glasstire Texas Visual Art
Space Invaders: Alan Disparte Explores Proxemics in Lubbock
Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts, Lubbock
by Michelle Kraft September 13, 2019
On my first day of high school theater class, the teacher led us through an activity on personal space. Pairing students off, each partner stood across the room, making eye contact, and advanced toward one another until one felt that the other had come close enough and said, “Stop.” It was a proximity game of chicken. During this exercise, we noted that partnered students stood at varying degrees of closeness to one another, depending upon familiarity and comfort level. The pair I recall best was the (male) drum major and the (female) bass clarinet player: they walked straight toward each other and embraced. The drama teacher pointed out that the two had acted in several plays together and knew each other well from marching band. (I remember this so well, I suppose, because I had a crush on the drum major. But don’t mind me: I had a crush on everybody in high school.)
This lesson was my first encounter with proxemics theory, an area of nonverbal communication pertaining to interpersonal space. If one pictures a series of four concentric rings radiating outward from oneself, the closest ring/distance is intimate space, followed by personal space, then social space, and the outermost ring is public space. The width of each “ring” is determined by such factors as gender, relationship, environment (i.e., habituating crowded settings, like a subway, versus living in the Big Bend), and culture. Our preferred personal spaces remain intact — we carry these borders with us — though they are also dynamic in that we might allow someone to move from personal space to intimate space as relationships change.
Austin-based artist Alan Disparte explores this paradox of the porousness/boundedness of interpersonal space in Proxemics, an exhibition of new work at the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts in Lubbock. Disparte envisions our cushions of personal space as invisible shields behind which we plot our courses through day-to-day existence. “My interest,” he explains, “is to highlight what might otherwise be this invisible shield, represented as a cubicle. Similar to people, each cube is individually unique but shares a common physical exterior.” Within the cubicle, though, Disparte includes openings — avenues for intimacy. In Extrapersonal Space [pictured at top], space outside the limit of our physical reach, the cubicle’s edges are, at first glance, strongly delineated: there seems a very specific inside- and outside-the-cube. However, these strict edges are transgressed by rows and columns of circles that penetrate into the cubicle’s core. The softening features of these circles are echoed by unruly splatters of color, like a good-humored elbow to the ribs amidst the painting’s more rigid elements.
The experience of standing before the works on display (linear format) is different — as one would expect — than that of seeing them on the artist’s website (depicted as a grid). What struck me in viewing both modes of presentation was how each yielded a distinctive expressive subtext. In the Martin McDonald Gallery at LHUCA, we encounter each small painting independently, moving down the corridor gallery to pause before each. As if meeting individual acquaintances (at social distance), we see in each work the familiarity of the similar while noting the subtle nuances of difference; but we do so discretely, with each painting as its own entity. In contrast, the website’s grid format of Proxemics assembles the paintings as a unit, a community of individuals in (nonverbal) conversation with one another. Viewed this way, the series brings to mind a maze of office cubicles — each holding a nucleus of humanity within it — cordoned off from one another, except through an intricate series of entrances and exits. Moreover, the grid format serves to reinforce the fact that each painting is itself a grid.
Which it is. And herein, perhaps, lies the metaphorical ingenuity of Disparte’s cubicle symbol. Rosalind Krauss noted that the Modernist painters used the grid because it promoted “silence, expressing it moreover as a refusal of speech… . This silence is not due simply to the extreme effectiveness of the grid as a barricade against speech, but to the protectiveness of its mesh against all intrusions from outside.” Thus, Disparte’s use of the grid (albeit expanded to the cube) in Proxemics reifies the nonverbal cues bound up in our hard-edged, protective personal borders.
But Disparte is no Modernist. He adopts the grid as an artistic convention while simultaneously disavowing it. He does this through his use of disappearing boundaries, intruding Pop patterns, appropriated drip-and-splatter gestural motifs, and spray-painted gradations set against flat expanses of psychedelic color. Country and Culture, for example, repeats the grid multiple times: in the cubicle itself, in spray-painted checkerboards stenciled with tape, and in graphite elements that lend an architectural quality to the work. This proliferation of squares is contradicted, though, by the pseudo-organicism of stylized wood-grain in hues of cerulean and orange.
Proxemics’ straightforward appearance belies a complex series of dyads: hard-soft, 2D-3D, flat-modulated, masculine-feminine, closed-opened, Modern-Postmodern, manufactured-painterly. Such contradictions allude to the intricacies of human interaction. Had I been partnered with the dreamboat drum major in theater class long ago, I’d have yelped, “Stop!” before making it halfway across the room. The distance between social space and intimate space — while only a couple of feet — might as well be a chasm. Yearning for intimacy and accepting it are two different things.
Artist Run Website:
Editor Dallas Jeffs,
Multimedia artist Alan Disparte uses his work to respond to media and memory, utilizing a range of styles and implements to do so. His portfolio features works in encaustic, paint, photography and video.
Alan’s painted works are truly engrossing, each one packed with a variety of different styles and formal sensibilities, creating pictures that seem to simultaneously reference art history and digitized imagery. Many of these works walk a delicate line between figuration and abstraction, with partial forms and suggestions of figures emerging through clouds of overlapping colour and shape.
The artist’s video works are jarring yet still draw the viewer in with an intense pace and cryptic symbolism. Alan’s technique for making many of his videos seems relatively simple and focused on manual, practical effects. The resulting works have a craft-like, stop-motion aesthetic. Combined with heavily distorted sounds, the imagery produces an interesting feeling of discomfort, and fascination.
Architectures of Chaos:
Abstraction and the Social World,
Alan Disparte’s paintings provide us with a hyperbolic mix of references to
landscape, architecture, technology, animation, dreamscapes, and gestural
abstraction. As a turbulent play of forces Disparte’s work captures something of the problematic of surrealist writing and Jungian archetypes – of letting the unexpected emerge as an inscription of the cultural unconscious – but here it is deployed as a means of exposing the paradoxes of our contemporary moment. Equal parts disaster and nostalgia, Disparte’s prismatic arrangements might be characterizes as a form of counter-futurism where catastrophe is caught up in a recursive relation with the past that erases any sense of assuredness about the present. The dynamic frisson of interlocking motifs in Disparte’s works show us that mixing disparate regimes of signification isn’t just one possibility among many, but that for twenty-first century abstraction to remain relevant, it now appears to be something of a necessity.
The neighborhood news on line:
Disparte’s work encompasses a vast landscape of mediums. His series of video installations combine elements of cartoon kitsch, nature and contemporary culture that are woven together to produce an intimate narrative, all displayed in modern day dioramas. Disparte’s paintings claim the canvas with humorous imagery that with a flip of the brush, magically goes astray. Whether fusing animal and human figures with contrasting angst and naiveté, or painting post modern architectural with Victorian elements, the viewers sensibilities are constantly being challenged.
San Diego Union Tribune, Visual Arts in San Diego:
Robert L. Pincus
In one portion of painter Alan Disparte’s exhibition, there is a tightly grouped number of works. Most envision faces in a semi fantastical mode: a man with donkey ears or a face with some feline features. There is one image with a full-figure rabbit, who possesses an eerily human face.
These faces are convincingly rendered in a style that hovers between expressionist and realist. They seem to be what Disparte, a recent graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute who now works in Los Angeles, does when he wants a detour from his big canvasses.
These larger paintings, the majority portion of his solo show, move in the direction of imaginary architecture, rooms and landscapes. The palette sometimes verges on cartoonish, with its lime green and cheery magenta. And in other cases, it’s subdued and shadowy. Disparte gives us places and objects filtered through the mind’s eye that aren’t premeditated, but take vivid shape on the canvas.
San Francisco Art Magazine:
Disparte layers acrylics on wood panels, creating large cell animation style paintings. He names them ("Swelter", "Helioscope", "Vinedresser") like a bill of rock bands. They aren't exactly without subjects: one recognizes melting snow, a dragon, a host of chevron. Each depicts a space where physics behave as they might in liquid.
Disparte's color, itself allegedly drawn from and depicting the natural, favors the register of blueberries and oranges to that of stone and fawn. The entertaining "Sapphire Brew" depicts red orange tadpoles twisting in a Googie landscape of moss and navy plankton with orange, butterfly shaped sea sheddings. The partial reflection of a four-paneled window and the light blue glare on the creatures themselves indicated they are behind glass. Disparte's technique, which involves both a controlled drip and painting over masking tape that is then removed, creates broken lines and inexactitude. This habit lends to the perception of distance, as color and shapes seem broken when seen from afar. It also allows Disparte to add flashes of intimacy to the painting that permit the viewer to feel specially located relative to the subject. Just when the viewer appears to have the plaintive canvas figured out, Disparte throws in a comic detail. In this case, the translucency of the fish indicates they've been swallowing pink and blue jelly beans.
Similarly, "Milkroom" shows an interior connected to its outer space by unusually strung telephone wires and shifting light from a window. Pink cardinals perched on driftwood outside twist their heads to peer in, sensing a presence. The sun is high on a cord of wood stacked on a slotted shelf. Just below the shelf, a yellow trough appears to be empty save for a snarl of driftwood coolly resting at the bottom. A bough of dried vines connects the upper and the lower portions of the interior but seems to dissipate as it approaches the window. A liquid flicker of red in the corner and radii emanating indicate a dreamlike relationship; the sawn wood is fantasizing about its once animate, outdoor life.
Artweek, 5 from San Francisco, Curated by Francis McCormack:
Disparte's paintings, on the other hand, are the most complicated,
rewarding, and similar in style to McCormack's own work. Abstract in the densest sense, flat geometric forms hover amidst art deco curls, twirls and embellishments. Color reigns supreme and, even though the shapes may or may not be familiar-hints of a falling star appear in Snowdust and flower buds explode across the canvas in Furious Fruit- the play of color, form and shape takes precedence over any reality, real or imagined. Disparte's paintings are a pure joy to look at.