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Born November 28, 1932 in Atchison, Kansas, he received his BFA at the University of Kansas in 1956, and MFA at the Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design in 1957. During that year, Blair received his degree, married, and moved to Greenville, South Carolina, where he accepted a position on the art faculty at Bob Jones University. During his 41 years of teaching there, Blair guided many developing artists of South Carolina with his quiet, unfailingly supportive direction. Through his and other faculty members’ work, Bob Jones University has become an integral component of fine arts in the upstate regions.
In addition to the demands of professorship at Bob Jones, Blair also taught at the Greenville County Museum of Art, the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville County School District’s Fine Arts Center, and the Kansas City Art Institute. In 1972, with fellow artists Emery Bopp and Darell Koons and businessman Richard Rupp, Blair co-founded Hampton III Gallery in Taylors, one of the first in upstate South Carolina. He is currently president of the gallery.
Blair has remained active in regional arts councils, notably with the South Carolina Arts Commission, where he served on the Acquisitions Committee, as a Commissioner for two terms, and as Chairman from 1994 to 1996. He was awarded the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2005. The highest award given by the state in the arts, this has been the crowning honor to Blair’s long and productive career.
In addition to these accomplishments, Blair has been a prolific creative artist throughout his career. His work is represented in more than 100 museums, galleries and institutions, and over 2,500 public, private, and corporate collections. In 1995, the South Carolina State Museum and Greenville County Museum of Art exhibited a major 40-year retrospective of his work. In 2001 he was the first living artist to have a one-man show at the Columbia Museum of Art. Blair has won numerous awards, and been included in many publications such as Contemporary Artists of South Carolina, along with significant colleagues such as William Halsey, Corrie McCallum, John Acorn, Jeanet S. Dreskin, Darell Koons, Emery Bopp, Chevis Clark, and Jasper Johns.
The colorful sculptures in this exhibition are distinct from his renowned landscapes and abstract paintings, rendered in bold colors of oil, gouache, and acrylic, which explore the boundaries of realistic and abstract imagery. The sculptures represent an entirely new dimension of Blair’s work: animated wooden creatures painted in a similar bright palette. Some of them are whimsical, while others allude to social commentary. Considering that the artist is color-blind, his skilled and expressive use of color is extraordinary. Using a band saw and pocket knife to create his sculptures from boards of spruce pine, Blair builds raw shapes from a simple idea or rough sketch. "One may start out as a pig and end up as a dog." According to the artist. He then applies 2-3 coats of gesso before applying color.
"My colors are not planned. I just start painting with acrylic paint thinned down with some transparent acrylic medium. I will go back over the painting until I get what I want, relying mostly on my intuition. I may stumble around until I find the right path. (I wander in the weeds a lot.) But I know what I want when I see it." The process is always subject to change, and he is known to modify the animals until they leave his studio.
Blair comes from an important generation of artists who brought modernism to South Carolina in the twentieth century. Likewise noteworthy is his tireless devotion to encouraging and supporting the arts. It is a gift to be able to create art, in all its forms, but Blair expands on his creative talents by sharing them with the community, enriching many lives.
Campbell, Sharon. Blair Retrospective: 1952-1998. Greenville: Bob Jones University/Dwight Gustafson Fine Arts Center, 1998.
Severens, Martha R. Carl R. Blair: Forty Years. Greenville: Greenville County Museum of Art, 1995.
For more information on this artist or the Southern masterworks in our collection, please visit our gallery website.
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