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Past Exhibitions

Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial

November 3, 2011–March 3, 2012

Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial is the most extensive survey of Thornton Dial’s art ever mounted. Depicting the tragedies and triumphs of humanity, he moves the discourse of contemporary art-making into new territory and offers an unflinching vision of the world that invites us to examine even our hardest truths.

Click on an image below to learn more.


Thornton Dial’s highly original works provide compelling commentary on the most pervasive challenges of our time—from reflections on race and class struggle in America to haunting meditations on events of contemporary global concern.

He creates dense accumulations of symbolically charged discarded materials, often engulfing them in expressionistic brushstrokes of color. Filled with rich allegories, his work invites us to discover many layers of meaning in its writhing forms, curious juxtapositions, and powerful imagery. Dial’s paintings and assemblages draw inspiration from the rich aesthetic traditions of the black South. Among these is the African American yard show, a highly influential yet little-recognized genre of found-object sculptural display that employs cast-off materials as a form of encoded visual language.

Artist Bio

Born in 1928 and raised in poverty in the rural South, Thornton Dial spent his childhood not in school but toiling in the fields of western Alabama. During the following decades, he worked as a laborer in the region’s heavy industry.

Throughout the years, Dial made a variety of objects through which he commented on the human spectacle. His creations began to receive attention from the established art world in the mid-1980s. Since then, his work has been exhibited and collected by some of the nation’s most important art institutions and was featured in the prestigious Whitney Biennial.

Organization and Support

This exhibition is organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Generous support of this exhibition is provided by the Friends of Thornton Dial and Art Partners.