By Special to the Daily World
The High Museum of Art, in partnership with the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts of Montgomery, Ala., has organized “Bill Traylor: Drawings from the Collections of the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.” This exhibition will feature some of the best examples of Traylor’s work, rarely seen outside of the southeastern United States, with more than 60 works drawn from both collections. Opening in Atlanta on Feb. 4, the exhibition will remain on view through May 13, 2012, before traveling to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tenn., the Mingei International Museum in San Diego, Calif., and other national venues to be announced.
“The High is deeply committed to folk and self-taught art. We are the only major museum in North America to have a curatorial department specifically devoted to the field,” said Michael E. Shapiro, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green Jr., Director of the High Museum of Art. “We believe that Traylor’s work is sure to excite visitors with its energy, whimsy and wit.”
“Bill Traylor” features representative works from Traylor’s various genres, including human and animal figures and depictions of his memories of plantation life—complex images in which he often combines several figures with abstract constructions. Although he worked largely in anonymity during his lifetime, Traylor became one of America’s most respected self-taught artists after his exposure to a larger public in the groundbreaking 1982 exhibition “Black Folk Art in America, 1930–1980,” held at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Traylor began drawing when he was eighty-five years old and, in a prolific decade of art-making, produced more than 1,200 drawings in graphite pencil, colored pencil, poster paint, charcoal and crayon. Many of his drawings were created on shirt cardboard, cast-off signs or other shaped supports. The unusual forms of these materials often influenced his designs. Unanchored by ground lines, his figures float in space. As early as 1939, the pared-down forms of Traylor’s energetic drawings struck a chord with observers accustomed to the formal reductions of modernism. This made him one of the first African American vernacular artists to attract the notice of the art establishment in the 20th century.
The exhibition features 33 Traylor drawings from the High and 30 from the MMFA. The two institutions hold the world’s largest museum