Exhibition sheds light on extraordinary career of a self-taught artist's triumph over destruction

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Exhibition sheds light on extraordinary career of a self-taught artist's triumph over destruction
Four Burnt and One Unburnt Ping-Pong Paddle Heads. Mixed Media, 24” x 10.5” x 4”. Collection of the Estate of Mr. Imagination.

DALLAS, TX.- The African American Museum, Dallas presents Fire! The Resurrection of Mr. Imagination featuring approximately 80 works by the late artist known as Mr. Imagination (born Gregory Warmack, 1948-2012). The exhibition sheds light on Mr. Imagination’s extraordinary career and his triumph over destruction and tragedy – specifically several collective fires that resulted in the loss of his studio, pets, some of his artwork, memorabilia and art collection, yet allowed him to expand his own imaginary world view. Free and open to the public, the exhibition is now on view through Jan. 7, 2023. The Museum is located in historic Fair Park at 3536 Grand Ave., Dallas, 75210.

Warmack left behind one of the most impressive bodies of work created by a self-taught artist during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Mr. Imagination’s public career spanned more than three decades, and his works are contained in many private and public collections in the U.S. and abroad, most notably Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian American Art Museum and Halle St. Pierre in Paris.

The exhibition is a tribute to his creative spirit as well as an investigation of his artistic journey.

Featuring the leftover items of everyday life, Fire! The Resurrection of Mr. Imagination features his signature bottle caps, paint brushes, brooms, ping-pong paddles and plaster figures of heads, people, fish and a large man-lizard made from elements as diverse as plaster, tin, straws, plastic tubing and wire.

Fire! The Resurrection of Mr. Imagination originally opened at Old Dominion University’s Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries. The African American Museum, Dallas exhibition is curated by Phillip E. Collins, who knew and worked with Mr. Imagination for several decades. Collins also served as an advisor to the curatorial team who installed the exhibition at Halle St. Pierre.

“Mr. Imagination had a passion for preserving the history of things he deemed materially and spiritually valuable that otherwise would be lost to humanity. Every environment he lived and worked in was a shrine inhabited by altars of and to his work,” said Collins. “He ultimately saw himself as a prophet and those who knew Mr. Imagination considered him a healer of great charisma and generosity.”

Collins adds, that as an artist, Mr. Imagination viewed the destruction wrought by two fires in 1982 and 2008 as a material transformation of his art and possessions and a spiritual transformation of his life and creative force. He allowed these experiences to expand his world view rather than to constrict his creative spirit with despair over the loss of beloved pets, his art works and those collected from other artists as well as the multitude of books and memorabilia he amassed.

This exhibition is a tribute to his indomitable spirit as well as an investigation of an artist’s creative journey. Fire! The Resurrection of Mr. Imagination is comprised of burnt works that survived the fires, as well as post-fire pieces the artist created in response to the disasters.

Other items on view include wire mesh guitars and a dress that show a delicate aesthetic and creative range. An altar from his last home is a major component of the exhibition installation as well as numerous portraits of the artist, as his face graces nearly every work.

Mr. Imagination’s art works, both large and small, are essentially composed of the detritus of everyday life – a triumph of the artist’s restless eye, reclaiming spirit and deep humanity.

The exhibition is comprised of works on loan from Mr. Imagination’s estate along with those from private collections from North Texas, the U.S. and abroad.

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