The works of Al Cartio (Honolulu, 1951) and Constance Ruth Howes (Baltimore, 1947) may not at first glance seem to have much in common. Other than the fact that both spent time in Portugal – Cartio in 1981, and Howes in 2015 – there is little stylistically and biographically, that connects or relates them. However, the closer examination of their œuvres provided by this exhibition, curated by Ana Jotta and Ricardo Valentim, puts their work in dialogue, revealing surprising links between their ways of seeing and considering reality.
Al Cartio has always considered himself an autodidact. Even so, he did study Art History at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, before going on to explore other fields on his own. As a native of Hawaii, who currently resides in Brooklyn, New York, his work has been defined by his desire to learn about other cultures and his interests in poetry and the arts. His multifaceted practice includes drawing, sculpture, and texts that respond to his travels, as well as his concerns during this very fraught time in the United States. As a keen observer of everyday life, he uses language as a site for experimentation and critique. He writes words and lists of names, a quiet and meditative practice, which reveals what it is like to be living in today’s world. Known as a solitary dandy, he cultivates his passions for feeling and thinking, while his work remains unpredictable and resists strict categorizations.
After retiring from a long career in academia as a distinguished professor of political science at the City University of New York, Constance Ruth Howes spent an extended period on holiday in the Algarve in 2015, where she produced a series of watercolors depicting the iconic southwestern Portuguese seascapes that surrounded her. Though she never intended these watercolors to be shown, and vows that she is not an artist, the aesthetic richness of these works cannot be denied. Produced as she was reevaluating her life at the end of her professional career, these works aren’t only simple observations of nature, but articulations of her own subjective reflections. After completing this series, which she claims was merely the result of boredom while on holiday, she has stated that she does not intend to make more watercolours ever again.
For the Project Space – Modern Collection of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Al Cartio and Constance Ruth Howes are presenting a selection of their works on paper in which words and seascapes create rhythmic leaps back and forth across the gallery. Additionally, an early sculpture from 1981 by Cartio, exit C, and a watercolour by the artist João Marques, untitled (1912), acquired by Howes when she was in Portugal in 2015, are also included.
On the occasion of the exhibition from A to C, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is publishing a new book by Ana Jotta and Ricardo Valentim titled Moer. The publication, which includes works, correspondence, and other diverse materials, reveals common interests and ideas they have been discussing since they met in 2010.
Curatorship: Ana Jotta and Ricardo Valentim
Al Cartio (Honolulu, 1951) received his B.A. in Art History at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1969. By 1980, Cartio had worked for a number of years for the New York sculptor Christopher Wilmarth, but had become disillusioned with the art world. He decided to quit his job, embarking on trips to the Mediterranean, North Africa, Sumatra, and the Atacama Desert in Chile, in search of spiritual clarity and his own artistic voice. During his travels he encountered local inhabitants and other travelers who had an indelible influence on him, including the Kerinci and Minangkabau peoples of Sumatra; the playwright Samuel Becket, whom he met in a riad in Tangier; and the Portuguese intelligentsia of the early 1980s, with whom he became acquainted during a period he spent in Lisbon in 1981. It was during this time that he participated in the Lisbon International Drawing Biennial (Lis ’81).
In 1983, he returned to New York, where he lived on the Bowery, continued making art, and began to write. He also worked as a set designer for La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. His artistic style ultimately refused categorization, but was strongly influenced by concrete poetry. During this period, his inner circle included artist Martin Wong, poet Miguel Piñero, writer Charles Henri Ford, and art patron Sam Wagstaff. Nonetheless, Cartio’s work was totally overlooked by the New York art world of the 1980s, and though he did participate in a few group shows, his work never received the recognition it deserved. After a number of his friends passed away during the aidscrisis, Cartio abandoned Manhattan for Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where he has resided ever since. Today he teaches eslat Pratt Institute, and is working on an English translation of Cleópatra by the Portuguese writer Francisco Sá de Miranda (sixteenth century).
Constance Ruth Howes (Baltimore, 1947) was born to an Irish Catholic working-class family. Despite her modest background, she was able to attend and graduate from Barnard College, Columbia University, where she studied under the renowned political scientist and sociologist, Frances Fox Piven from 1966 to 1968. In the late 1960s, she met Tom Hayden, the radical anti-war and civil rights activist, and became involved in his work with Newark’s inner-city residents as a part of the Newark Community Union Project. From 1971 to 1977, she pursued a doctorate in Political Science at Harvard University, studying under political sociologist Barrington Moore, Jr. In 1980, she published her first book, Critical Politics, Growth and Ethics, which was shortlisted for the Best New Book in Comparative Political Sciences Award of the American Political Science Association.
She began teaching in the Political Science Department at Cornell University in 1979. From 1981 to 1982, she held the position of President of the American Sociological Association, and in 1982, she published Profane Democracies, which was widely heralded as one of the most important studies on democracy in the second half of the twentieth century. She left Cornell in 1988, moving to John Jay College at the City University of New York (cuny), before being offered a permanent position in the Political Science Department at the Graduate Center (cuny). After retiring in 2014, she revived an interest in painting that she had nurtured in her youth during weekend studio art classes she took at the Baltimore Museum of Art. During a trip to Portugal’s Algarve region in 2015, she created a series of watercolour seascapes. After completing them, she decided not to continue to pursue art-making, retreating to her Riverside Drive Co-op in New York City, where she resides today with her husband of 44 years, Aaron David Rosenthal.