I have been struggling with finding the words to write this blog entry about Thornton Dial’s new exhibit, “Hard Truths,” at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. So, I’ve decided to go with more of a stream of consciousness and simply begin writing, see where it takes me and attempt to follow myself.
|Joanne Cubbs Addresses the Reception|
First, about the exhibition’s well attended opening reception – It was our good fortune that we had arrived early as the documentary by Alabama Public Television, “Mr. Dial Has Something to Say” was playing in IMA’s Davis Lab. Satch knew about Mr. Dial and his work but I was unacquainted. Being able to watch the entire program helped me begin to comprehend Mr. Dial’s work and his long and complicated journey. The film was also a good introduction to the passion and dedication of Bill Arnett of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation.
Satch and I had been speculating as to whether Mr. Dial would be present, but we were hopeful. Very soon after we emerged from the Davis Lab, we realized that, yes indeed, Mr. Dial and his family were present. And, almost immediately, we recognized Bill Arnett.
IMA’s Director Maxwell Anderson, as well as the exhibit’s Curator Joanne Cubbs made terrific comments about Mr. Dial and his art and how the IMA’s exhibition finally delivered to Mr. Dial his long coming acknowledgment as a master (my word).
There was a lot of hubub around Mr. Dial as the pleasure and delight of the evening’s significance was palpable.
|Hubub Around Mr. Dial|
Satch and I sought out Mr. Arnett to offer our congratulations. He was quite cordial and we had a short chat about the exhibition and its importance.
It was time to visit the exhibition. We had an inkling of what we were going to experience as IMA had purchased one of Mr. Dial’s works and they had displayed two works as an exhibition preview. But we were not prepared for the amount of work (70 pieces) that displayed the skill of a artistic genius.
|Photographing Mr. Dial and Family|
Mr Dial’s work transcends simple interpretation, it engages and challenges the senses on many levels – spiritual, political, aesthetic, emotional, intellectual just to name a few that immediately come to mind. It addresses the human condition in an unfiltered way that is free from academia, expectation and stereotype. It is contemporary art of the purest form.
I will leave to you, the reader, to do a little research and learn about the culutural origins of Mr. Dial’s work. I do recommend that visitors to the exhibition take the time to watch the previously mentioned documentary before viewing the art.
Secondly – Satch and I wanted to briefly meet Mr. Dial but he was obviously getting tired and he was trying to finish his dessert! So rather than impose ourselves we briefly spoke to his son who assured us that our message would be delivered to Mr. Dial.
|Bill Arnett (on the left)|
Thirdly – The next morning we went back to the museum so we could spend more time with the art. At the top of the escalator that comes up from the garage entrance we ran directly into Bill Arnett – we had a nice long talk. He was very generous with his time. Arnett’s passion and dedication to Mr. Dial and African American art is immeasurable. Throughout the last thirty years he has taken a lot of hits, but how anyone can question what this gentleman has made possible and what he has preserved for history is beyond my comprehension.
|Satch and Kyle Ragsdale|
In closing this long entry, I want to attempt to briefly explain how I see Mr. Dial’s art. His work examines and makes meditative statements about the human condition and the historical role that humanity has played, and plays, in our journey. Ultimately his work requires me to look inward and think about what my responsibility is in the world and, in many ways, suggests a path, but a path that I must discover for myself. The physical construction of his work is complicated yet seamless. It relates to the subject matter in a way that challenges the imagination. In other words, the art and its message are in absolute harmony.
It is wonderful that IMA has curated this exhibition that presents Mr. Dial and his work in the proper light and context.
Big and Huge kudos to Maxwell Anderson and all of the staff at IMA. It is exciting to see our “little museum” step up to the plate and make a difference. Between “Hard Truths” and the 2010 La Biennale IMA is having quite a year.
Satch and I plan on making many more visits to IMA to view Mr. Dial’s work. I may have more to say about it on another day.
Below are three videos and three links.