Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial highlights the artist’s significant contribution to the field of American art and shows 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 presents 70 of Dial’s large-scale paintings, drawings and found-object sculptures, including 25 works on view for the first time. Spanning twenty years of his work as an artist, it is the most extensive showing of his art ever mounted.
Karen Wilkin of the Wall Street Journal included Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial in her Best of Art 2011 alongside major shows of Degas, de Kooning, and the new Islamic wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Of Hard Truths Wilkin writes:
“At the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial honored an American original. The self-taught Mr. Dial, born in 1928 in rural Alabama, invented a personal, vernacular approach to collage: aggressively articulated, expressively—and beautifully—colored constructions incorporating a startling assortment of scavenged materials. Two decades of relief paintings, free-standing sculptures and drawings attested to Mr. Dial’s power. Their titles asserted deep convictions about ecology, civil rights, the role of women, and politics; their quirky materiality declared their affinity with the oddball objects in Southern ‘yard shows,’ but no special pleading was required for the art or its author. Whatever the works’ lineage or motivations, whatever Mr. Dial’s history, ‘Hard Truths’ was an impressive survey of first-rate works by a major artist. Period.”
"That Mr. Dial is a self-taught, fearless, ambitious African-American from the South is fascinating. His experience clearly informs what he does, but like the steepest slopes in the Tour de France bicycle race, his work is 'beyond category.' The only label required by his formidable collage-constructions is that of first-rate, powerful Art—with a capital 'A.' —The Wall Street Journal
"Rauschenberg once said, 'Art doesn't come out of art.' What he meant, and Dial would surely agree, is that it comes out of life. If anything, art is a word so contaminated these days by hype, misunderstanding and sales talk, it's tempting sometimes to think we should try doing without it. Until you remember that it's the one word spacious enough to contain what Dial does." —TIME Magazine
New Orleans Museum of Art: February 24 – May 20, 2012
Mint Museum, Charlotte: June 2 – September 30, 2012
High Museum of Art, Atlanta: November 3, 2012 – March 3, 2013