Al Loving’s spirals put a spin on abstract art
Al Loving's work during the 1980s is characterized by his signature spirals, with some added geometric shapes, a touch of his earlier flair. Photo by Austin Dickey.

Al Loving’s spirals put a spin on abstract art

For Al Loving, the 80’s were a time for a redefinition of his artwork. After years of art revolving around geometric shapes, the 80’s proved to be a sort of coming-out party for Loving, as he redefined his style and reputation as an artist. As a result, this period of work went down as Loving’s spiral era. Many of those pieces are now on display at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Known for the artist’s ability to use different materials and mediums, the spiral era consisted mostly of heavy rag paper cut into various spirals and shapes, thoughtfully placed together to form elaborate collages. As Loving says, “I chose the spiral as a symbol of life’s continuity. It became an overall wish for everyone.” Each with their own unique size, color and shape, the art of the spiral era broke the boundaries of the conventional art of the day and pushed the limits of abstract art.

Loving constantly used the negative space around the spirals to give specific ones emphasis, while others ran into and intertwined with each other to create parts of a creation much bigger than a single spiral. In some instances, Loving would layer spirals to the point the untrained eye could not differentiate them from a distance. Rather, they blended together cohesively to form a platform for other spirals to dance upon.

The creativity did not stop at spirals, though. Loving also stayed in touch with his earlier style, seen throughout various pieces on display. He strategically placed geometric shapes, particularly squares, across his works to add to the controlled chaos that is remembered as Loving’s signature style during this era. This period was a defining time for Loving, as he set himself apart from other artists with his unique and versatile use of the spiral amidst an era of art polluted by predictable geometric abstraction and politically charged pieces.

The piece that really caught eyes in the exhibition was Barbara in “Spiral Heaven,” a gigantic piece right in the middle of the gallery, a true focal point of the entire display. Hundreds of spirals are clustered together, forming a medley of them, all with unique personalities of their own. Falling off the edge is a cube-like structure, a hint of Loving’s past. Crafting like a true artist, Loving lets the negative space behind the objects balance out the piece, resulting in a visually dominating cloud of creativity that perfectly represents the spiral era.

The Spiral Play: Loving in the 80’s is a must-see exhibition for anyone who is appreciative of the arts. The complexity and tedious detail that went into the pieces on display is imminent throughout the gallery and leaves viewers with their creative juices flowing, each forming their own distinguished interpretation of Loving’s beautiful collages.