PRINT April 1994


Thornton Dial: Image of the Tiger

Thomas McEvilley and Amiri Baraka, Thornton Dial: Image of the Tiger (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1993), 160 pages, 128 illustrations.

THE ART OF THORNTON DIAL, a remarkable black artist of Alabama, recently challenged New York at the New Museum on Broadway downtown and at the Museum of American Folk Art off Broadway uptown. One message was, or seemed to be, Abandon your theoreticism and get on down to line, form, and color, and to social criticism in vernacular terms. Randall Morris argues that academic discourse is inadequate when aimed at visionary artists like Dial.1 I would agree: black artists who preach and signify in an abiding idiom of the spirit elude the agnostic nets of Modernism, deconstruction, post-Modernism, and other analytic trends. The vein of the vernacular, predating the Modernist and postdating the post, is, to paraphrase Amiri Baraka, a changing forever.

Hence Image

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