Mixed Media

Thornton Dial: Scraps and Lessons


American Orange Show, 2004, Can lids, cloth, wood, steel, cow jawbone, enamel, and Splash Zone compound on canvas on wood, 78 x 94 x 39 1/2″

The first exhibition of the revered southern artist Thornton Dial since his death earlier this year features large works created over the last two decades using found objects and scrap material.


The Power of the Birds, 2002, via Artsy

Dial was a self-taught artist who transformed old tires, chains, twigs, and rusted-tools from his job as a metalworker. Notes for the exhibition at Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York say he “often employed a secret language of symbols that convey strength, survival, and freedom–important to the dialogue of the black experience.”


Walking Into Yesterday, 2007, Quilt, clothing, enamel, and spray paint on canvas on wood, 57 x 81 x 2 1/2″

Dial also incorporated techniques from African-American quilt-making traditions, “noticeable through the shape and scale of certain work, the incorporation of woven materials and used-clothing, and grid-like compositions.”


The Raggly Flag, 1989, Enamel on wood, 48 x 96″

The show, on through June 18, spotlights Dial’s critiques of contemporary social and political issues, including poverty, war, and homelessness. His death earlier this year marked the end of one of America’s most fascinating art stories. Dial was born on a former cotton plantation in the South and plucked from obscurity by a collector.

More about the exhibition – We All Live Under the Same Old Flag – at Marianne Boesky Gallery, here.

Superb article on Artsy about Thornton Dial and his work, here.


5 replies »

  1. Wow – I like this! I’ve never heard of him. The gallery site has some really nice looking pieces too. I don’t understand the measurements on that first one. Height and width … and depth? They’re huge.

    Liked by 1 person

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