by Thornton Dial
located in the John Lewis Plaza on the corner of Freedom Parkway and Ponce de Leon
Thornton Dial is a self-taught artist who only began seriously making art after his retirement. He worked in and around Bessemer, AL, as a carpenter, bricklayer, welder, and steelworker, finally starting his own family business making painted steel furniture. With more time to make things simply for his own pleasure, Dial started constructing figurative sculptures, then branched out to painting and mixed-media assemblages. It wasn’t very long before he was discovered by the outside art world, and showing his ‘things’ at galleries and museums.
His art functions like folk tales, combining African and American traditions to tell stories that are at once personal, political, and spiritual. Dial’s work is more complex and sophisticated than the naive style so often associated with outsider art. Some of his works often incorporate materials such as rugs matted with paint, furniture and sculptural objects. Dial’s works have been compared to those of Baselitz, Kiefer, Schnabel and other celebrated artists. His perspective and technique may have peers in the mainstream art world. However, those qualities coupled with such profound emotional power and piercing socio-political commentary make a rare combination.
In 1993, Dial had concurrent solo exhibitions at the Museum of American Folk Art and The New Museum for Contemporary Art. His work was exhibited in the 2000 Whitney Biennial, and in 2012 Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial , the most extensive survey of Thornton Dial’s art ever mounted opened at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
Images from the unveiling and dedication of The Bridge, September 09, 2005.