Thornton Dial: Lost Cows, 2000–2001
Cow skeletons, steel, golf bag, golf ball, mirrors, enamel, and Splash Zone compound.
Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
Photo courtesy of High Museum of Art
Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial
ATLANTA, GEORGIA • High Museum of Art • Ongoing
Thornton Dial's highly original works provide compelling commentary on the most pervasive challenges of our time—from reflections on race and class struggle in America to haunting meditations on events of contemporary global concern.
He creates dense accumulations of symbolically charged discarded materials, often engulfing them in expressionistic brushstrokes of color. Filled with rich allegories, his work invites us to discover many layers of meaning in its writhing forms, curious juxtapositions, and powerful imagery. Dial's paintings and assemblages draw inspiration from the rich aesthetic traditions of the black South. Among these is the African American yard show, a highly influential yet little-recognized genre of found-object sculptural display that employs cast-off materials as a form of encoded visual language.
Born in 1928 and raised in poverty in the rural South, Thornton Dial spent his childhood not in school but toiling in the fields of western Alabama. During the following decades, he worked as a laborer in the region's heavy industry.
Throughout the years, Dial made a variety of objects through which he commented on the human spectacle. His creations began to receive attention from the established art world in the mid-1980s. Since then, his work has been exhibited and collected by some of the nation's most important art institutions and was featured in the prestigious Whitney Biennial.
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