Thornton Dial, ‘Angels ’, ca. 1987, ZQ Art Gallery
Thornton Dial, ‘Angels ’, ca. 1987, ZQ Art Gallery

Thornton Dial (American/Emelle, Alabama, 1928-2016)

Angels was painted when his daughter passed away of cerebral palsy in 1987.

An extraordinarily prolific maker of complex assemblage sculptures, Thornton Dial was plucked from relative obscurity in the 1980s by Bill Arnett, an Atlanta-based collector of art made by untrained black Southerners—an event that has become the stuff of legend. Dial spent most of his life working as a machinist in a railcar factory, making large-scale sculptures on the side with organic and industrial scrap materials; so many, in fact, that his wife used to make him bury old works that took up too much space. His epic works delve into racially charged narratives and natural disasters in American history, as well as the media's representation of these events. With a raw, gestural aesthetic, and containing both abstract patterns and figurative forms, Dial's work is considered comparable to that of iconic artists such as Anselm Kiefer, Willem de Kooning, and Robert Rauschenberg.

About Thornton Dial

An extraordinarily prolific maker of complex assemblage sculptures, Thornton Dial was plucked from relative obscurity in the 1980s by Bill Arnett, an Atlanta-based collector of art made by untrained black Southerners—an event that has become the stuff of legend. Dial spent most of his life working as a machinist in a railcar factory, making large-scale sculptures on the side with organic and industrial scrap materials; so many, in fact, that his wife used to make him bury old works that took up too much space. His epic works delve into racially charged narratives and natural disasters in American history, as well as the media's representation of these events. With a raw, gestural aesthetic, and containing both abstract patterns and figurative forms, Dial's work is considered comparable to that of iconic artists such as Anselm Kiefer, Willem de Kooning, and Robert Rauschenberg.

American, 1928-2016, Emelle, Alabama