Angelo Granata – A Career Retrospective

William T. Dooley, Associate Professor of Art, succeeded Angelo Granata as director of the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art after Granata retired. Dooley wrote this description of the retrospective exhibition of Granata’s work put on in 2011 as well as a remembrance of Professor Granata and his legacy for the spring 2011 issue of The Loupe.

Angelo “Jack” Granata (1922-2009) came to The University of Alabama in 1949 as one of the founding faculty members of the art department. He was professor of sculpture until his retirement in 1988. Jack Granata served as chair from 1968 to 1981 and saw the department through major curriculum and facilities enhancements. As director of the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art, Granata established a formalized administration and mission which was complementary to the department and the College of Arts and Sciences.

This exhibit is the premier retrospective for the prolific sculptor. Works were exhibited in the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art and the Sella-Granata Art Gallery from January 6 through February 11, 2011. The chronological selection of his sculpture and works on paper spanning sixty years frames his explorations within a formal artistic vocabulary. Jack Granata used a variety of sculptural mediums and processes in pursuit of artistic goals which evolved across hundreds of works. His work has been exhibited in venues around the country including the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Hunter Museum of Art, the St. Louis Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art (New York), and in public collections at Georgetown College, Kentucky; the Figge Art Museum, Iowa; and the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art Permanent Collection. He was a founding member of the Southern Sculptor’s Association. The exhibition was organized with the assistance of the Granata family.

When I joined the art department in 1988, I replaced Jack Granata as director of the gallery. Thanks to Jack, we had and continue to have a well-organized infrastructure for the gallery, a robust gallery program, and a well-established Permanent Collection, which initially grew largely as a result of private donations. Jack recognized the value of the gallery program and was an advocate for its establishment as a free-standing feature of the art department, with its own facility and dedicated staff. In the late 1960s, there were many art departments with gallery facilities, but most of them operated on the goodwill of the department’s faculty. Although our budget was modest, we at least had a separate budget.

After his retirement, Jack often dropped by the gallery, especially during exhibit changes. He knew better than most how important and sometimes difficult it is to make solid and consistent plans for the gallery’s program of exhibits. He also struck me as one who knew the importance of taking care of the details that make up the whole. I believe that he liked planning and installing the artwork – the curatorial aspects of gallery work – more than anything else. Perhaps it was because he spent plenty of time being consumed by this process himself.

He had strong opinions about most things, something I admired about him and which served him well. On the other hand, Jack had many opportunities to tell me what he thought would be best for the gallery or for the department, but he never spoke in specifics. Rather, he offered me an empathy that reflected his having been in a similar position in his own academic career. He had the gift of listening, of paying attention to the unique character of individuals. I found these traits endearing; he was clearly caring and kind.

Jack served as an advocate and caretaker for the gallery and its Permanent Collection. An administrator outside this department might call him relentless; I would describe his perspective about the gallery as visionary. –WTD