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Allen Craig Bishop
(1953 - )
Born May 7, 1953, in Moab, Allen Bishop is one of Utah's boldest Abstract Expressionists. He graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Utah in 1978, and he received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Denver School of Art in 1982. The Utah Arts Council awarded him a Visual Arts Fellowship from 1987-1989. Currently, Bishop operates Ylem Art School in Granite, Utah, where he has been the director and an instructor since 1988. He also has taught at Sam Houston State University in Texas, the University of Denver, the Visual Art Institute in Salt Lake, and at the Salt Lake Art Center.
Bishop views a work of art as a living entity, as an organism caught in the middle of the creative process. He says, "I treat each piece as a new organism, breathing with its own type of life. I do not seek to mimic, but to expand nature; not to plagiarize, but to continue the creative processes of God." Consequently, Allen does not paint within the traditional, rectangular frame, but expands his canvas, making it reach out in all directions like an abstract sculpture. His paintings almost appear to grow in an array of varying shapes and colors. He explains, "my paintings generate a type of life of their own beyond a simple accumulation of shapes and colors." Like La Semilla Brota (Spanish for "budding seed"), they burst forth, striving for life. This organic quality may have its roots in Bishop’s interest in biology as well as in his reluctance to have traditional formatting dictate the shapes his art will take.
Allen involves the art collector in some of his works by fashioning his paintings in movable pieces so they can be arranged according to the desire of the owner. He calls them "permutable" paintings. "Recently," he says, “I've introduced elements of time, change and choice by using shaped canvases in rearrangeable, multi-part configurations. This way, I hope to give the viewer/collector increased opportunity to participate in the process of visual communication, thus allowing the 'universal structures' of shape and color to function on a more elastic and democratic level.”
Bishop’s nonobjective, geometric, multi-pieced art works involve people in the creative process long beyond their completion. As long as his paintings survive, they can be arranged and rearranged into new, living works of art. Colors and shapes cause the eye to move from one area to another, and as these shapes and colors are placed in fresh positions, they create new ways for viewers to see and to interact with the paintings.
Bishop still makes some arrangeable pieces, but he also is making wood reliefs, several of which are large public projects. For the Science building at Southern University of Utah, in Cedar City, he created a 5’ x 25’ work entitled Probe. The artwork consists of five wooden-shaped panels with a low relief of shapes glued to the panels and then painted with acrylics.
Another large project was the design of logo panels for the group “Leonardo on Wheels,” a science and art exhibit that traveled the state. Bishop painted designs on large hexagonal plastic panels for each area of the exhibit such as light, movement, energy, etc.
When asked about changes in his art, Bishop cites the movement to wood reliefs as an important area of exploration and says that he is including more recognizable shapes in his work—not realistically painted, but clearly identifiable shapes such as birds and snakes. Sometimes the links to realism in his works are subtle, such as his group of works Assent of Man. Although the pieces are painted abstractions, the proportions of each piece, 54” x 24”, are reminiscent of human proportions. And, like many of his works, Bishop says that Assent of Man has references both to science and religion. He produced the work largely as a response to Charles Darwin’s book the Descent of Man.
Recently, Bishop was part of a team working on the design of the light rail station near Franklin Quest Field in Salt Lake. His assignment was to design the pavers for the station. Another recent commission is a piece to be installed in the new Science building at Utah State University.
In addition to the growing list of public artworks by Bishop at places like Red Butte Gardens and South Towne Center, his pieces are in private collections, museums, and state collections throughout the state including The LDS Museum of Church History and Art, the Springville Museum of Art, and the BYU Museum of Art.
Allen Bishop, interviews
Jerry A. Schefcik's "A View of Four," Utah Arts Council Visual Artist Fellowship Award, 1990.
In science, religion and art, nature is a complex and fertile matrix for both mystery and discovery. My work is grounded in non-objective, “internal” directions, but I am also attracted to natural, “external” phenomena. Recognizable subject matter often appears in my work, but I am less interested in natural appearances than I am in the visual exploration of both natural and internal dynamics. Scientific and religious concepts often interact and inform these expressions. It is important for me to be open to a wide range of creative influences and approaches, engaging both rational and intuitive processes.
Art making itself is akin to the processes of nature: the building, changing, and destroying of forms in the evolution of a more dynamically balanced and, perhaps, a more interesting and meaningful whole. I make paintings, drawings, and prints. Many pieces are shaped and painted wood relief panels, often in multi-part, re-arrangeable formats. I think of such pieces as visual organisms that can permute, mutate, and adapt to various contexts. Some pieces are carefully designed before production; others evolve more playfully from wood and metal scraps, changing over time; often ending up radically different from the original idea. Either way, I sense myself as a link, an agent of change - a small step between what was and what will be.
With shape, color, physical materials and internal dialogue, my attempt is to explore and express the themes, mysteries and paradoxes of the universe we are part of. I cannot imagine anything more interesting.