Another Tradition: Drawings by Black Artists from the American South at The Morgan Library & Museum, September 24, 2021 – January 16, 2022

“In the last three decades, exhibitions and publications have established the rightful place of figures such as Dial and the quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, in the canon of twentieth-century art. The focus has often been on the impressive works of assemblage—whether of found objects or fabric—that have emerged from the Southern United States. Artists only one or two generations removed from slavery, and subjected to the abuses of Jim Crow, developed ingenious formal techniques using found materials and skills learned outside the classroom and studio. Many, like Dial, Rowe, and Holley, exhibited their creations at their homes in elaborate ‘yard shows,’ drawing the attention of passersby and art-world figures alike.  

Another Tradition focuses on the genre of drawing, which, like assemblage, is an art of ‘making do.’ Its accessibility and directness have always appealed to both artists and their audiences. While some works in the exhibition were produced on traditional artist’s papers, others incorporate the unique qualities of found supports. The range of media includes watercolor, ballpoint pen, crayon, and even glitter. But the impact of these works ultimately transcends their innovative means. Although each of the eight artists represented speaks with a distinctive voice, the intimate space of the Morgan’s Thaw Gallery illuminates formal and thematic connections that arise from their shared geographies and experiences.” — The Morgan Library & Museum

Thornton Dial (1928 – 2016). Posing Movie Stars Holding the Freedom Bird, 1991. Watercolor and graphite on wove paper. 30 × 22 in. (76.2 × 55.9 cm). The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection and purchase on the Manley Family Fund, 2018.97r. Photography by Janny Chiu, © Thornton Dial / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Thornton Dial (1928 – 2016). Ladies Stand by the Tiger, 1991. Watercolor, graphite, and fabricated black chalk on wove paper. 22 1/2 × 29 7/8 in. (57.2 × 75.9 cm). The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection and purchase on the Manley Family Fund, 2018.98r. Photography by Janny Chiu, © Thornton Dial / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Nellie Mae Rowe (1900 – 1982). Untitled, 1978. Porous-point pen on black and white photographic print mounted on wove paper, mounted on plywood, with additions of white paint and oil pastel. 14 1/2 × 14 3/4 in. (36.8 × 37.5 cm). The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection and purchase on the Manley Family Fund, 2018.100r. Photography by Janny Chiu.© 2021 Estate of Nellie Mae Rowe / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Nellie Mae Rowe (1900 – 1982). Untitled (Woman Talking to Animals), 1981. Black ballpoint pen, black porous-point pen, wax crayon, water-soluble oil pastel, and graphite on wove paper. 24 × 19 in. (61 × 48.3 cm). The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection and purchase on the Manley Family Fund, 2018.101r. Photography by Janny Chiu. © 2021 Estate of Nellie Mae Rowe / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Henry Speller (1903 – 1997). Courthouse, 1986. Wax crayon, porous-point pen, and graphite on wove paper. 18 × 24 in. (45.7 × 61 cm). The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection and purchase on the Manley Family Fund, 2018.102r. Photography by Janny Chiu.
Henry Speller (1903 – 1997). Glorie Jean and Her Friends, 1987. Porous-point pen, wax crayon, and graphite on wove paper. 18 × 24 in. (45.7 × 61 cm). The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection and purchase on the Manley Family Fund, 2018.103r. Photography by Janny Chiu.
Luster Willis (1913 – 1990). Untitled, 1950s. Water-based paint on fabric. 19 1/2 × 17 in. (49.5 × 43.2 cm). The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection and purchase on the Manley Family Fund, 2018.104. Photography by Janny Chiu. © 2021 Estate of Luster Willis / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Luster Willis (1913 – 1990). Standing Together, 1986. Tempera paint, glitter, glue, blue ballpoint pen, and graphite pencil on wove paper. 20 × 12 1/4 in. (50.8 × 31.1 cm). The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection and purchase on the Manley Family Fund, 2018.105. Photography by Janny Chiu. © 2021 Estate of Luster Willis / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Purvis Young (1943 – 2010). Untitled. 1980s. Ink, watercolor, and crayon on collage of printed papers (recto and verso). 22 × 15 1/2 in. (55.9 × 39.4 cm). The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of Daniel Aubry, 2017.389. Photography by Janny Chiu. © Larry T. Clemons / Gallery 721 / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Purvis Young (1943 – 2010). Sometimes I Get Emotion from the Game, early 1980s. Ballpoint and porous-point pen, on paper glued to found book. 12 1/4 × 17 3/4 in. (31.1 × 45.1 cm). The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection and purchase on the Manley Family Fund, 2018.106. Photgoraphy courtesy of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. © Larry T. Clemons / Gallery 721 / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

“The acquisition of eleven works from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in 2018 profoundly enriched our collection of modern and contemporary drawings,” said exhibition curator Rachel Federman, the Morgan’s Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawings. “Black artists from the South have contributed tremendously to the visual culture of the United States with extraordinary quilts and assemblage sculptures, but also, as this exhibition makes clear, in the realm of drawing.”

Images courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum.