Thornton Dial is widely regarded as the most important artist ever to arise from the Deep South and is ranked among the most significant in the world today. With a retrospective currently showing at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and recent reviews in Time Magazine, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Dial is arguably one of the most important African-American artists of the 20th century.
Fueled by this chorus of critical acclaim, Bill Lowe presents Thornton Dial’s latest series entitled “Disaster Areas” – an epic look at the destructive and regenerative forces of nature and how they impact our lives. Dial’s work is a tribute to survivorship and the resiliency of the human spirit. Unable to read or write for most of his life, Thornton Dial referred to what he made only as “things,” though late in life he found out that others call them “art.” His style is both personal and culturally rich; it speaks with a resolute voice through intense surfaces, multilayered narratives, and a metaphysical concern with issues of ancestry. These assemblages of found objects represent a pure and spiritual effort to make art’s complexities and mysteries central to the human experience. "Disaster Areas" Tornadoes, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, coal mining catastrophes and terrorist attacks have become a part of the world’s daily conversation, filmed and reported by a 24-hour news cycle or uploaded to YouTube by people on the ground. Dial, like the rest of us, has witnessed these disasters through the filter of the television screen, inundated with images of flooded homes, stranded families and fields strewn with debris. These snapshots of devastation, formatted like electronic postcards, have always been fertile material for Dial and have manifested themselves in paintings and drawings over the past 20 years. The inevitable visual imprints left by these images are re-worked by Dial into compositions that illustrate the disasters themselves, but also tell the more complex stories of individual lives affected, the unequal hardships that the poor are forced to endure and the role of the artist as documentarian. This exhibition, titled Disaster Areas, examines works made by Dial over the past four years dealing with various disasters, natural and man-made. These works tell the stories of specific events: the tornadoes that destroyed Tuscaloosa this past spring, Hurricane Katrina and the tsunamis that recently ravaged Japan. From the wreckage and rubble of destruction Dial constructs complex and beautiful assemblages that illustrate the fragility of the human condition but affirm the profound belief that we are all in this together. Bill Lowe Gallery celebrates twenty-two years as the south’s gold standard in visual art with this show that Lowe describes as “monumental, breathtaking and deeply moving.” Thornton Dial’s – Disaster Areas – opened at Bill Lowe Gallery Friday, July 8th in conjunction with Aspiration and Artifice, a photographic exhibit from NY artist Greg Lotus.