Bill Traylor, William Edmonson, and the Modernist Impulse, installation at Krannert Art Museum, 2004.
On View
Oct 22, 2004–Jan 2, 2005
Main Level, East Gallery

The lives and work of Bill Traylor and William Edmondson share fascinating parallels despite a twenty-year age gap and the fact that they never met.

Exhibition sponsored in part by A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc.; Fox Development Corporation; Hampton Inn; Hickory Point Bank & Trust; Illinois Arts Council; Krannert Art Museum Council; and Ruth and Bob Vogele

Both were born into poverty in the South and began creating art as older men after working for decades as physical laborers. Traylor drew and painted at a busy street corner in downtown Montgomery while Edmondson began carving in his Nashville yard in 1931. Although well known in their respective African-American communities, it was contemporary photographers that brought their work to the attention of museum curators. In 1937 Edmondson was the first African-American artist to have a one-man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Three years later, Traylor had a one-man exhibition in Alabama followed by another in Riverdale, New York. 

Traylor, a draftsman, and Edmondson, a sculptor, both created figurative work inspired by their surroundings or people they knew, and employed abstract forms and simplified compositions. By displaying their art together, this exhibition examined the aesthetic connections between their works within the framework of modernism. Drawn from private collections and museums across the country, this exhibition included over fifty drawings and paintings made by Traylor, and twenty five sculptures by Edmondson, along with photographs of them by their contemporaries. The exhibition opened at Krannert Art Museum before traveling to the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas.

Exhibition programming

October 27
3 pm: Gallery Conversation
With Josef Helfenstein, director, The Menil Collection, as well as catalogue essayists and U of I faculty. Program sponsored in part by the Frances P. Rohlen Visiting Artists Fund/College of Fine and Applied Arts

November 14
1 pm: Second Sunday Gallery Tour
Guided tour of the exhibition by Gisela Carbonell-Coll, curatorial assistant

November 20
3 pm: Lecture
"Technique and Representation in the Work of African-American Artists," by Lowery Stokes Sims, executive director, Studio Museum of Harlem, New York. Program sponsored in part by the Jerrold Ziff Distinguished Lecture Fund in Modern and Contemporary Art, the Center for Advanced Study, School of Art + Design, Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, and African American Studies


Curators: Josef Helfenstein and Roxanne Stanulis