This grouping of eight works by artist Al Bright (1940 – 2019) were recently gifted to The Butler by Huntington National Bank. The paintings were commissioned by First Federal Savings and Loan of Youngstown in 1986, specifically for the building of their new corporate headquarters in Boardman. According to an article in the Vindicator dated January 12, 1986, Bright’s intention was “to capture the valley” in this body of work “through use of color.” The largest of the eight works is a 62” x 122” painting referred to as Riverbank Steel Mills. Bright said Riverbank Steel Mills was partly inspired by “his memories of working in a mill as a college student.”
The abstract nature of these works also reveal a narrative that strongly represents the landscape. Bright was an artist who truly understood the handling of paint as the works move from heavy application of the medium to swift, lightly applied paint.
Al Bright was also a remarkable colorist whose color investigations lead to arrangements that are far removed from the out of the tube variety of pigments. One quick look at these highly original works and we come to realize that color in the hands of a stellar interpreter of our world is an amazingly effective device. He is a colorist in the tradition of Milton Avery and Henri Matisse.
The works in this grouping were selected years ago to enliven a professional building. Al Bright’s works were traditionally appealing on many levels. It is understandable that they would be chosen to create beautiful spaces within the architecture in which they are housed. Al Bright was a master painter. His devotion to his art always shines through. The Butler Institute of American Art is blessed to now possess such an extraordinary group of paintings.