Artistic Vintage American Hooked Round Rug By Alice Black, Country / Origin: United States Of America, Date / Circa: Mid Century (20th) – This striking rug was created by the American artisan Alice Black from Cumberland, Maryland. At first glance, you see a round, borderless, and roughly symmetrical tribal mask in black, ivory, and blood red. On closer examination, you notice that the lack of identifying detail in the simple rendering states that the overall impact matters more than the specific cultural source. The closely spaced repeating black lines draw the viewer’s focus inward to the center of the mask, circling the eyes like polarity lines in a magnetic field.
Instead of a central medallion with closed inner elements, the elongated nose contains varying shades of mahogany and deep stone gray. The meandering outline inside resembles a brain or even the echo of another face. Disturbingly emotionless, the red mouth appears again in each eye as well as on the forehead where it resembles sensuous lips in the style of Andy Warhol. The total image, contemporary yet ancient, features a starkly abstract face in the center of a large fingerprint.
Little information exists about the mysterious Alice Black. This particular American hooked rug, less complex than her usual compositions, reflects her ability to create a variety of one-of-a-kind works of art using the medium of hooked wool rugs. Several were inspired by African life, depicting village scenes in a primitivistic style. Others feature intricate repeating patterns. She also created stylized animals inspired by the art of the Pacific Northwest, a Rorschach image, a medieval court scene, Oriental patterns, florals and vegetables, and even Latin words. Sometimes she combined rigid geometric motifs with exuberant Art Deco curves. In fact, many pieces are reminiscent of the swirling contrasts of vorticist Edward Wordsworth, all suddenly commanding attention. Although she preferred a darker palette, she used bright hues and bold outlines to generate tension. Without exception, each creation reveals a silent but intense world.
Provenance: Many of her area rugs have only recently become available as part of the estate of Dr. Bruce R. Baker, A.M., L.H.D., eminent linguist and developer of augmentative communication devices. He was an avid collector of Alice Black’s rugs until his death in 2020.