Two drawings by artist Bill Traylor from the Bethany Mission Gallery collection are included in the Smithsonian’s exhibition Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor. Gallery owners Victor Keen and Jeanne Ruddy attended the opening of the exhibition, which is on display through March 17, 2019.
Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor is the first major retrospective ever organized for an artist born into slavery, and the most comprehensive look at Bill Traylor’s work to date.
Bill Traylor (ca. 1853–1949) is regarded today as one of the most important American artists of the twentieth century. A black man born into slavery in Alabama, he was an eyewitness to history: the Civil War, Emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation, the Great Migration, and the steady rise of African American urban culture in the South. Traylor would not live to see the civil rights movement, but he was among those who laid its foundation. Starting around 1939—by then in his late eighties and living on the streets of Montgomery—Traylor made the radical steps of taking up pencil and paintbrush and attesting to his existence and point of view. The paintings and drawings he made are visually striking and politically assertive; they include simple yet powerful distillations of tales and memories as well as spare, vibrantly colored abstractions. When Traylor died in 1949, he left behind more than one thousand works of art.
The exhibition is organized by Leslie Umberger, curator of folk and self-taught art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Museum’s collection includes seventeen works by Traylor, fourteen of which have been acquired since 2015. Between Worlds features 155 of Traylor’s most important paintings and drawings.
Above text courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), read more here: