Sculptor William Dawson grew up in Huntsville, Alabama but spent most of life in Chicago. Dawson worked for thirty-five years as a produce distributor in the South Water Street market where he became the first black member of the Teamster Union. It was not until he semi-retired in 1965 at the age of 64 that he began to seriously devote his time to art. Working part-time as a security guard, Dawson passed his time by carving wood figures. When he retired completely, he focused all his energy on creating sculptures of men and women that range in size from several inches to several feet. Dawson’s figures evoke a sense of toy-like playfulness while still remaining rooted in the everyday.
Curator John Cain, Executive Director of the Northern Indiana Arts Association, has drawn from the resources of local collectors to assemble this exhibition. Not since the artist’s retrospective at the Chicago Cultural Center in January 1990, held a few months before Dawson’s death, has an exhibition focused on his eclectic work.
Untitled male figure, 1975 (?), carved and stained wood, Roger Brown Study Collection of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago / Untitled male figure, n.d. carved and painted wood, Roger Brown Study Collection of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago / Male figure with hat, n.d, carved and painted wood, Collection of Susann Craig / "Mayor Daley," n.d. carved and painted wood, hair, Collection of Susann Craig / Male figure with painted clothes and articulated gun in holster, 1976, Collection of Marjorie and Harvey Freed / Untitled male figure, n.d., carved and painted wood, Collection of Cindy and Mike Noland / Untitled male figure with striped shirt, 1979, carved and painted wood, Collection of Cindy and Mike Noland / Untitled male figure with hat, 1977, carved and painted wood, Collection of Stacy and Tim Bruce / Untitled male figure with white coat, 1979, carved and painted wood, Collection of Stacy and Tim Bruce
"Virgin of Guadalupe with Moon and Stars", Artist Unknown, Black ink on white cotton handkerchief, 15 1/2" x 15", Undated
Art from the Inside features 121 drawings on handkerchiefs. Known as paños, these pocket-sized canvases depict boldly drawn montages composed of Pre-Columbian symbols, colonial religious icons, Mexican historical figures and images from 20th century popular culture. Paños serve as pictorial letters which carry messages from inmates to family and loved ones on the outside and to friends and associates within the prison system. Paño artists draw upon a rich vocabulary derived from the “high” and “low” art forms of Mexico and the United States. Aztec warriors, the Virgin of Guadalupe and Pancho Villa, tattooed gang members, pin-up girls, vintage low-rider cars and trucks, clowns, teddy bears, and cartoon characters provide inspiration for the drawings. Although the origin of paño drawing is unknown, it is thought that the tradition emerged from the jails and prisons in Texas, New Mexico, and California during the 1940s.
An opening reception is scheduled for Friday, June 17, 2005, 5-8 pm, at Intuit. Dr. Victor Sorell will present a lecture and gallery talk, Illuminated Handkerchiefs, Tattooed Bodies, and Prison Scribes: Meditations on the Aesthetic, Religious and Social Sensibilities of Chicano Pintos , on Thursday, June 23rd from 6 – 8 pm. Dr. Sorell is Associate Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Chicago State University.
Joseph Garlock, (winter scene with train on inclined trestle), 1950, Paint on board, 19.5” x 25.75”, Courtesy Marna Anderson Gallery, New Paltz, NY
Joseph Garlock (1884-1979) was a Russian immigrant who lived in the New York area, working as a shoe repairman, driving a private bus, and selling fruit and vegetables at a store he owned. He began painting at age 65 when he retired, while spending time at a cabin his daughter owned in the Catskills.
Garlock’s artwork was inspired by elements of American popular culture, such as Life Magazine, as well as classic American and European art and memories from his native Russia. He considered his art a hobby and showed his work at community arts and craft shows. In the 1950s, he received a one-man show at a small New York gallery and was featured in a story in the Newark Star Ledger, but was largely forgotten as an artist after that. A large number of his unknown works were stored in a shed near his daughter’s Catskills cabin. When she died, Garlock’s grandchildren discovered the treasure trove of work that had been in storage for 25 years.
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