The earliest artwork generally considered by scholars is the "Venus of Tan-Tan" It is believed to have been made 300,000 to 500,000 years ago during the Acheulean period in Morocco. It is about 6 cm long and resembles a human figure. Fast forward through the cave paintings in southern Europe in both France and Portugal onto virtually every major period and movement in fine art and some very interesting conclusions can be seen regarding the most important recurring iconic references in our collective history. Human figures and animals are seen again and again since the dawn of visual communications itself. Their significance is so broad and profound that they have great meaning and merit in virtually every aspect of human thought; sociologically, psychologically, philosophically, theologically, scientifically and certainly in terms of visual importance.
Figurative icons, human or animal, have the unique quality of being infinitely capable of manipulation without ever losing their identity. This is an arena of great inspiration and interest to artists and has been throughout history. Since Renaissance artists, such as El Greco, Goya, Marini, Rodin ... and Baskin to name a few, have all adopted this wonderful potential in visual expression.
The American sculptor Carl Dahl is an artist who has embraced this rich tradition and found a personal voice that resonates with profound vigor and visual impact in contemporary art. Carl is one of those rare individuals who continue to search for ever-greater extensions to the interpretability of implied narrative but also seriously broaden the power and merit of human and animal iconography. His choices and combinations of materials pay homage to historical precedent and at the same time sound with singular contemporary vitality and presence. Carl's design and formal power communicate to virtually anyone who seriously looks at his work and it stays with those who do.
The true significance of any artwork rests in its ability to offer the viewer something new to "see" or "feel" conceptually or formally every time they encounter the work. This is a concept that is evident only in the work of the finest artists of this or any era. Carl Dahl is a contemporary artist whose work has these qualities in abundance.
Professor of Art
Arizona State University