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Most Comprehensive Presentation of the Work of Thornton Dial to Premiere at the Indianapolis Museum of Art
INDIANAPOLIS, IN.- The most extensive presentation ever mounted of Thornton Dial’s painting and sculpture will premiere at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, on view from February 27, 2011 to May 15, 2011. Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial will highlight the artist’s significant contribution to the field of American art and show how Dial’s work speaks to the most pressing issues of our time—including the War in Iraq, 9/11, and social issues like racism and homelessness. The exhibition will present over 75 of Dial’s large-scale paintings, drawings and found-object sculptures spanning twenty years of his artistic career—including 25 works on view for the first time.

Thornton Dial’s work draws inspiration from the rich symbolic world of the black rural South. With no formal art education, Dial developed a truly distinctive and original style that was born out of decades of struggle as a working-class black man. Influenced by African American yard shows, Dial’s work incorporates salvaged objects—from plastic grave flowers and children’s toys to cow skulls and goat carcasses—to create highly charged assemblages that tackle a wide range of social and political subjects. Dial’s work touches on topics ranging from the dilemmas of labor and the abuse of the natural environment to meditations on significant recent political and cultural moments—with a particular focus on the struggles of historically marginalized groups such as women and the rural poor. His work also explores the history of racial oppression in America, from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement and into the post-modern era.

“The work of Thornton Dial offers powerful insight into the most compelling political and social issues of our time,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO of the IMA. “This exhibition will bring long-overdue recognition to Thornton Dial’s remarkable career and make this important artist’s work accessible to new audiences.”

“Thornton Dial’s art represents a missing chapter in American art history—the rich yet unrecognized traditions of black vernacular art from the South,” said Joanne Cubbs, the IMA’s adjunct curator of American Art. “His work can be viewed as the visual art counterpart to the better-known forms of black musical expression that are now recognized worldwide, such as jazz and hip hop.”

Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial will include more than 75 paintings and sculptural works as it surveys two decades of the artist’s career. Highlights of the exhibition include the 1992 work “The Last Day of Martin Luther King,” which examines the life, death and transformative message of the assassinated political leader, and “Victory in Iraq” from 2004, a ten-foot canvas that incorporates barbed wire and iconic symbols of America’s role in world conflict. Additionally, a Dial work recently acquired by the IMA will be on view in the exhibition—“Don’t Matter How Raggly the Flag, It Still Got To Tie Us Together,” which dates from 2003 and evokes the image of a torn and ravaged American flag that nevertheless serves to unite us. The earliest work included in the exhibition will be the 1991 drawing ”Refugees in Love.” Among the show’s many recent works is the 2009 piece “Turtle Holding Flag,” which celebrates President Obama’s inauguration.

Indianapolis Museum of Art | Thornton Dial | Maxwell L. Anderson |


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