During their lifetimes, Thornton Dial Sr. (1928 – 2016) and Ronald Lockett (1965 – 1998) were artistic contemporaries who produced rich bodies of work that transformed discarded materials into objects of wonder and complexity. Their deep friendship was forged through both bonds of family, friendship and visual expression. This comparison of works by them from the permanent collection places the two artists in conversation with one another, highlighting their creativity and their mutual exchange of knowledge and experience.
Text by: Nekabari Ereba
As part of a series of tightly focused exhibitions installed within its permanent collection, the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia is presenting “In Dialogue: Artist, Mentor, Friend: Ronald Lockett and Thornton Dial Sr.” through November 28, 2021. The exhibition consists of a single work by each artist.
Lockett and Dial are both known for using discarded or overlooked materials to create complex and wondrous works of art that address American society, politics and culture. Their works use sheets of metal, rusted and molded cans, wires, rope and even bones. War, racism and bigotry were common themes in Dial’s works. Lockett, Dial’s cousin and artistic mentee, focused his work on highlighting the experience of growing up as a Black man in 1980s rural Alabama.
Shawnya Harris, Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art, organized the exhibition.
“In an attempt to make connections with objects in our vast permanent collection, I’m comparing works by two famous Bessemer, Alabama, artists who have been the focus of many exciting exhibitions.” Harris said. “The Lockett is a recent acquisition that I have never shown. I wanted to take this and another object by Thornton Dial Sr. to celebrate their unique artistry.”
“In Dialogue” is a series of installations in which the Georgia Museum of Art’s curators create focused, innovative conversations around works of art from the permanent collection. The series brings these familiar works to life by placing them in dialogue with works of art by influential peers, related sketches and studies or even objects from later periods.