When the internationally renowned Alabama artist Thornton Dial, Sr., passed away at the age of eighty-seven in late January, he left behind a body of work that has transformed American art. Despite his lack of formal training, Dial took the art world by storm with his deft fusion of painting and sculpture, leading one art critic to declare that his work marked the end of so-called “outsider” art when it was shown at the Whitney Biennial in 2000. The courageous manner in which Dial confronts oppression and records perseverance inspired the title of his critically acclaimed retrospective Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial, which the High exhibited in 2013.
The High’s memorial exhibition, on view February 13 to May 1, 2016, presents a selection of Dial’s exuberant drawings and symbolically rich paintings that the Museum has collected over the past twenty years. Today, Dial is represented in museum collections across the country, including those of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum; and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.