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Allan Wash

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Lives in
San Diego

Works in
San Diego


Minneapolis School of Art, MFA
University of Minnesota/Minneapolis Studio Art, BFA

Representing galleries
Museum of Chianciano, Camden Gallery/Paris, france, GAGLIARDI GALLERY, London

mixed-media, sculpture, figurative, abstract, modern painting, neo-primitive painting, conceptual


My process probes linkages to primitive cultures, symbology and “spiritual magic” striving to discover the power of primal graphic cues and truth.  This path tends to contradict societal mass consumption, media overload and technology obsession.  My work explores “tribalism” and a love for primitive honesty, the patinated walls of fading paint, the brilliant colors of Mexico and muted earth tones of rural Spain, the utter simplicity of Africa and the convoluted complexity of the Middle East. I want my art to reawaken the primal connectivity that offers commonality to us all and to open other’s thoughts to the foundational origins that all art springs from. I believe in a beauty that reflects pure, unadulterated, vision, untarnished by  consumerism, superficial academic art criticism –– this can open up new thoughts and perceptions about what we are, where we are going and what we want our societies to be.  If my art stands apart, it is from whatever honesty, spontaneity, free expression is realized in my work. Painting/Sculpture for me is not a consciously developed process manufactured to be a “sensation, a scandal, a polemic, a mass audience event.”  I can only paint as I feel, paint what I like, what I love, what brings joy and pleasure to me.

Evoking Spirit: The Intuitive Transformations of Allan Wash

Written by: Peter Wiley

Certain timeless motifs that occur again and again in native cultures worldwide inform the art of Allan Wash, whose compelling acrylic paintings can be seen at Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street.

As a boy, during the notoriously cold winters of his native Minnesota, Wash dreamed of tropical climes and exotic cultures. Later, he traveled the world and became enamored of art and artifacts that, as he puts it, reflect "a pure, unadulterated vision." Although he holds an MFA from Minneapolis School of Art, and garnered over 160 awards in the course of a distinguished career as a graphic designer, as a fine artist Wash has been able to sidestep the pitfalls of sophistication and create paintings that unlike those of A.R. Penck and other "neo-expressionists" who reduce the primitive to a mere mannerism are refreshingly unbeholden to the trends and fashions of today. More in the manner of the original Expressionists, Wash draws energy from primal sources.

The influence of masks and totems comes across prominently in paintings such as "Triangle" and "Origins." In the former, the nearly monochromatic palette enhances the power of the angular figures. Central to the composition is a figure resembling a formidable female deity. She is flanked by mask-like faces and jagged shapes possibly derived from tribal designs. Yet the picture appears to present a subjective interpretation of indigenous themes, rather than specific aspects of a particular tribe or culture. It is the deliberate expression of a man with very evident grasp of the civilized traditions he has rejected on principle and the ability to combine them with more intuitive methods in a highly evocative synthesis of opposites. In "Origins," the forms are more rounded than those in "Triangle" and the painting's combination of visceral red and earthy brown hues, mediated by areas of blue, further enhances its sensuality. Again, a female figure dominates the composition as its central motif. Only here, as opposed to in the previous work, her flowing contours suggest a goddess of fertility. While the entire composition of another powerful acrylic on canvas is filled by a mask-like face possessed of a decidedly primitive power, the title suggests an emotion more prevalent in civilized cultures: "Ambivalence." Similarly, the acrylic painting that Wash calls "Red Dream" encompasses crosses, hearts, birds, fish, and other starkly simplified symbols; yet the figure occupying the center of the composition is not at all primitive-looking. Rather, it is more akin to Modigliani's sensual female nudes, with its elongated torso and warm red colorations. Indeed, its full-frontal pose and outspread arms bespeak a certain abandon that one rarely encounters amid the ritualistic patterns of primitive art. Similarly, the angular distortions of the Mexican street scene "Tijuana Heat" recall Tamayo, while the pictographic forms of "Majorca" are akin to the early semi-abstract works of Rothko and Gottlieb.

As all serious artists must no matter how respectful they may be of indigenous sources and no matter how much they may endeavor to emulate their immediacy Wash filters tribal iconography through a highly original modern sensibility, and thus frees it from its inherent superstitions, taboos, and aesthetic limitations. What he gives us, finally, is the spiritual power of such imagery, albeit translated into universal symbols that speak eloquently across cultural boundaries.





Museum of Chianciano Biennale 2011

Three works by San Diego artist Allan J. Wash have been selected for exhibition in the Chianciano Biennale 2011. This prestigious curated museum exhibition is organized by the Chianciano Art Museum in Tuscany. It gathers selected well-known and emerging artists from all over the world, in the second most important Art Biennale in Europe after the Venice Biennale.

 This exhibition is an opportunity for established as well as emerging artists to gain visibility at the international level, a challenging competition and an artistic event of notable quality. Talented artists are selected from all around the world with nations ranging from Chile to India, Australia to Germany and the USA to the Philippines with over 10,000 visitors.The exhibition is staged over the second week of September and includes over 10,000 visitors, art lecturers, international TV coverage, parades and ceremonies for the opening and closing awards, wine tastings, a charity wine auction and celebratory parties and dinners. 

Three paintings accepted for exhibition at the Salon La Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts to be held in the Paris Louvre Art Complex. Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts SNBA highlights the multiplicity of trends in contemporary art and vitality. In the heart of Paris, in addition to French artists, this show hosts delegations from Brazil, Canada, People's Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, Spain, U.S., Japan, Turkey, Italy , United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany.


Awards & Achievements:

Artslant Award — 6th Annual, 2010 Showcase Winner, Sculpture

 Artslant Award — 7th Annual, 2013 Showcase Winner, Sculpture

Biannale of Chianciano 2011 — Award for Artistic Merit, 3 paintings

Exhibition La Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts — Paris Louvre Art Complex, 3 paintings accepted for international exhibit

Trustee, Board of Directors, California Center for the Arts

Director Museum Committee, California Center for the Arts

Published book “Vision,” exploration of Wash’s photography & influence on painting

Over 160 awards for creativity in graphic design



Minneapolis School of Art/University of Minnesota, BFA, Communications/Fine Arts


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