“Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial” to open February 25

Thornton Dial (b. 1928) / Out of the Darkness, the Lord Gave Us Light / 2003 / Cloth, carpet, enamel, spray paint, and Splash Zone compound on canvas on wood / 72 1/2 x 74 x 3 in.

While the major Thornton Dial retrospective at the Indianapolis Museum of Art doesn’t officially open until the 25th, online buzz already surrounds the show.

IMA staff members have blogged about the process of creating the exhibition, and posts by the museum’s chief photographer and conservator provide lovely thoughts on Dial’s workspace, materials, and techniques.

Dial’s art–and the public reception of his work–is considered in Carol Keno’s great article for the New York Times. Keno writes, “Because Mr. Dial is self-taught and illiterate, he has generally been classified as a folk or outsider artist. But that pigeonhole has long rankled his admirers, because his work’s look, ambition, and obvious intellectual reach hew so closely to that of many other modern and contemporary masters from Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg to Jean-Michel Basquiat.” Dial’s work is indeed remarkably powerful and reveals great artistic mastery. I personally love his art. However, I wonder: Does Keno’s need to align Dial’s work with New York-based masters of the modern/contemporary art world undermine Dial’s background and creative drive in favor of an agenda set by these Urban, Northeast artists?


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