Medium
Image rights
Estate of Thornton Dial / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio, Rockford, IL / Art Resource, NY.

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.

Collected by major museums
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields
Selected exhibitions
2020
An Alternative Canon: Art Dealers Collecting Outsider ArtAndrew Edlin Gallery
2019
Thornton Dial: Last WorksBill Lowe Gallery
2017
Revelations: Art from the African American Southde Young Museum
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Lost Cows, 2000-2001

Cow skeletons, steel, golf bag, golf ball, mirrors, enamel, and Splash Zone compound
76 1/2 × 91 × 52 in
194.3 × 231.1 × 132.1 cm
Location
San Francisco
Medium
Image rights
Estate of Thornton Dial / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio, Rockford, IL / Art Resource, NY.

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.

Collected by major museums
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields
Selected exhibitions (3)
Other works by Thornton Dial
Related works
Related artists