Whatever prompted Al Allen, he began driving around the rural South in the 1960s, camera in hand, snapping pictures, not of the picturesque but of the ordinary - or what those not blessed with his eye would think ordinary. He was looking for something beyond the outward scene - a feeling, a certain slant of light, maybe quilt-like patterns of geometric shapes. Maybe home.
He eventually found it, and so did the rest of us, in his large paintings of windows. Windows would become his hallmark, with their outward, classical calm and sense of mystery within. His flat planes of light were anything but flat or plain. They stirred memory, beckoned to something with all of us.
Al Allen described himself as a manipulator of shapes, but the narrative quality of his work is as undeniable as the light falling across his windows, which survive him. You'd have to be blind, or at least terribly sophisticated, which is much the same thing, not to give in to the poignancy that his work evokes.
Al Allen was able to catch time, freeze it in a frame, and so surmount it. Something is about to happen behind his windows, or has just happened. Or happened long ago yet still haunts. His windows invite us into some inaccessible place we can no longer visit except through imagination. The sight of them stirs the kind of remembering that comes before and lasts beyond knowing. They draw us into wordless memory; we yearn for its light, and to see as we once saw. And now Al Allen has been drawn toward home once again, and toward the light.
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