Allen 'Big Al' Carter

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Allen Dester Carter
Born(1947-06-29)June 29, 1947
DiedDecember 18, 2008(2008-12-18) (aged 61)
NationalityUnited States
EducationColumbus College of Art and Design
Known forpainting

Allen Dester Carter (born June 29, 1947[1][2] – December 18, 2008),[3] known as 'Big Al' Carter, was an Alexandria, Virginia artist and public school art teacher[1][4] in Washington, D.C.[5]

When profiled by The Washington Post Magazine in May 2006[1], Carter estimated that he had 20,000 works of art—"from intricate etchings to enormous day-glo paintings"—in the 900-square-foot space where he lived.[1]


Carter received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio in 1972, and returned to Washington to do post-graduate work and teach at American University. [6] In 1995 he received an Honorary Master of Fine Arts degree, also from the Columbus College of Art and Design[7] .


During his life Carter exhibited widely in galleries and museums - usually around the Mid Atlantic[1][3] - including in exhibitions with major African American artists, including painter and collage artist Romare Bearden.[1] He also exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art[4] and the Freer Gallery of Art[4], both in Washington, D.C, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts[4] in Richmond, and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art[4] in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, The Portsmouth Museum[8] in Virginia, and the Cameron Art Museum[9] in Wilmington, NC, and the Alexandria Black History Museum[10] in Alexandria, VA. Soon after his death, a retrospective of his works was staged at Vanderbilt University's Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy[3]. In 2015, 80 of his paintings, sculptures, drawings, and assemblages were exhibited at the Arizona State University Art Museum.[4]

A more recent retrospective was held in 2019 at the Fred Schnider Gallery of Art in Arlington, VA.[11][12][13][14]

Carter's artworks are in permanent collections at the Smithsonian Museum[13] and the Corcoran Gallery of Art[13], both in Washington, DC. He also created public murals in Roanoke, VA, Washington, DC, Asheville, NC, Raleigh, NC, and Winston-Salem, NC.[13]


Carter was awarded the Kansas City key to the city[7], a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Professional Fellowship, and DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities Artist-In-Residence award.

Critical acclaim[edit]

Carter's work attracted a lot of critical acclaim during his career, and yet he "did not allow his artwork to be shown in the country's art capital, New York, where he could have found greater renown and remuneration."[5]

"Carter's art is protean, large-hearted, never prissy," Washington Post critic Paul Richard wrote of a 1985 exhibition at a local gallery. "Warmth pours from the walls. To walk into the gallery is to accept Big Al's embrace."[5][15]

A 1990 New York Times review said his paintings "suggest boundless, uncontrollable freedom . . . [a] complex world of reality, dream and art."[5][1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Battiata, Mary (May 21, 2006). "Living Color". The Washington Post Magazine. Retrieved January 29, 2019.
  2. ^ "Allen Dester "Big Al" Carter". Find a Grave. 18 December 2008.
  3. ^ a b c Coronado, Kris (January 31, 2010). "Whatever Happened To ... artist Big Al Carter?". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 29, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Big man, big legacy: Artwork of 'Big Al' Carter comes to ASU". Arizona State University. 2015-06-25. Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  5. ^ a b c d Schudel, Matt (January 11, 2009). "Compulsive Painter Defied Stylistic Trends". The Washington Post.
  6. ^ Welzenbach, Michael (1984). Allen Carter: Prints & Drawings. Washington, DC: Herb's Restaurant Gallery.
  7. ^ a b "Allen "Big Al" Carter Celebrated During Black History Month at the Fred Schnider Gallery of Art". Arlington Magazine. Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  8. ^ ST JOHN ERICKSON, MARK (November 11, 1993). "ARTIST PLAYS WITH PAINT TO GIVE LOTS OF VISUAL PUNCH". Daily Press. Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  9. ^ "Cameron Art Museum". Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  10. ^ "Big Al Carter | NotionsCapital". Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  11. ^ "Allen D. Carter | Arlington, VA | Fred Schnider Gallery of Art". Art Gallery | Arlington, VA | Fred Schnider Gallery of Art. Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  12. ^ "Exhibition - Big Al Carter: A Retrospective". Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  13. ^ a b c d "Allen "Big Al" Carter Celebrated During Black History Month at th". Arlington, VA Patch. 2019-01-08. Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  14. ^ Hadley, Faye (January 18, 2019). "1 Creative Homage". Modern Luxury Magazine. Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  15. ^ Richard, Paul (February 9, 1985). "In Big Al's Embrace". The Washingto Post. Retrieved January 29, 2019.

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