Thornton Dial in the 21st Century

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
September 25, 2005 - January 8, 2006

This groundbreaking exhibition follows the artist’s exploration of interlined topics, including a halting suite of works about September 11, 2001; contemporary ” history paintings” on life in America since the events of 9/11; homages to his friends, the women quilt makers of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and their craft; a new type of “art about art” in which Dial responds to works from the disparate cultural dialogues (including art by academically trained and vernacular artists); memories of vanishing ways of life and his childhood in the the South; and evocations of human struggles for freedom.

Since 2000, Thornton Dial (born 1928) has embarked on one of the most remarkable creative journeys in American visual art. Following his discovery by the art world in the late 1980s, he became in the 1990s a widely known African American vernacular artist. Coinciding with the turn of the millennium, Dial has spent the eighth decade of his life on overlapping cycles of epic-scale artworks that summarize the grand sweep of his improbable life’s story.

"Tour-de-force paintings so feral in their wrath, so exuberant in their invention, so monumental, playful, profound, and technically proficient….the sheer tumultuous force of his mammoth multimedia works make the more conventional traditions look timid in comparison…" —Newsday

"Preternaturally gifted….Mr. Dial…looks dumbfoundingly adept to some of us because his energy and fluent line, abstracted in maelstroms of color, easily call to mind Pollack and de Kooning."—New York Times