The Visionary Art of Willie Young at First Glance, You
African American Museum exhibit, Dallas Texas written by guest curator Edlecca Thompson
The Visionary Art of Willie Young At first glance, you might think that the drawings in this exhibition are sketches for a new online gaming version of Doom™ or the latest SciFi flick. Another inspection provides an opportunity to peek into the world of an artist whose subjects rely on real-world visionary experiences and contexts. Willie Wayne Young is a Dallas native who began his art education, under the tutelage of Chapman Kelley, while taking classes under a Dallas Museum of Fine Art High School Scholarship between 1959 and 1963. Many professional artists exhibited and taught at the school including Ann Cushing, Deforrest Judd, and Otis Dozier. For the next three years, Willie’s fledgling artistic career began to take shape through exposure to other visiting artists like Elaine de Kooning, Hobson Pittman, Ben Kamihira and David DeLong. Later, Heri Bert Bartscht, Perry Nichols, Franklin Drake, Larry Van Haren, and Octavio Medellin all influenced his development as an artist. Early in his career, Willie began to turn his focus on the simple observation of his environment. Trees, flowers, cracks in walls, sidewalks, and other anomalies in nature infused his work with a depth of vision that was innovative. His first drawing instructor, Orval Browning, showed Willie how to shade his forms toward a greater degree of three-dimensionality. Thus, the drawings in this exhibition reveal attention to detail and shading and a conscious relationship between form and the surrounding space. Since 1959, Willie Young has produced drawings that challenge the imagination as well as the planar space in which they reside. They offer a glimpse into a very personal world that beckons a search for meaning in the twig and bone-like forms, fractured landscapes, and dancing acorns that float on the paper’s surface. Some shapes move and twist as if uncomfortable in their space. Others are simply static and closed, commanding attention in their intricate line detail and shading. Yet, other forms quite eloquently, and deliberately, reach out as if trying to communicate on very intimate level with the viewer. Willie Young’s exhibition history includes: Atelier Chapman Kelley, Dallas, TX; Goldie Paley Gallery at Moore College of Art Philadelphia, PA; Ricco Maresca Gallery, New York, NY; Webb Gallery, Waxahachie, TX; Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago, IL; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY; The Newark Museum, Newark, NJ; and the Mason Murer Fine Art Gallery, Atlanta, GA. The collection of drawings in this exhibition spans 31 years, from 1977 through 2008, and is only a fraction of the total body of work that Willie has been producing every day for the past 50 years.
Special thanks to:
African American Museum · Chapman Kelley · JD Evans Art Studio This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Charles McAdams, Jr., (1937-2008) whose love and admiration for Willie Young’s drawings provided the inspiration for this exhibition.
Edleeca Thompson, Guest Curator