Outsider Art Fair
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Bill Traylor

American, 20th Century.
Born 1854, Alabama; died 1942, Alabama.


One of America's classic Outsider Artists, Bill Traylor was active for only several years (ca. 1939-1942), but is today recognized internationally for the over 1200, vibrant drawings on cardboard he produced on the sidewalks of Depression-era Montgomery, Alabama. 

Born a slave in 1854, Traylor remained on the plantation on which he was raised, to work and raise his own family in 1928. Forced to leave his job at a shoe factory due to a disability, he became homeless, yet was granted refuge at night in shops in th city's African-American neighborhood on Monroe Street (currently Monroe Avenue). His work was collected and championed by local artist Charles Shannon, who recognized Traylor's genius. Shannon had the foresight to hold Traylor's oeuvre in storage until reintroducing it to the artworld during the late 1970s, just as interest in Outsiders was growing. 

Traylor drew scenes of both rural and urban daily life, inspired in equal parts by memory and imagination. Ranging from simple portraits of Monroe Street denizens to complex, activated compositions the artist called "exciting events," these drawings tell stories by means of a reductive, formal sensibility in which many have recognized hallmarks of the modern. Men in top hats, women with arms akimbo, ferocious dogs, drunkards, children, stubborn mules, and lively domestic quarrels have inspired scholarly interpretations ranging from the plausible to the ridiculous. A true Outsider, Traylor's brilliantly conceived tall tales, made for an audience of passers-by, will never lose their mystery.

Jenifer P. Borum


Selected  Solo Exhibitons

2013, Bill Traylor: Drawings from the Collections of the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, American Folk Art Museum, New York

2013, Traylor in Motion: Wonders from New York Collections, American Folk Art Museum, New York

Selected Group Exhibitions

2013, Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art from the Sheldon and Jill Bonovitz Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art

2006, Inner Worlds Outside, traveling exhibition, Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundacíon "La Caixa," Madrid; WhiteChapel Gallery, London; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

2005, Bill Traylor, William Edmondson and the Modernist Impulse, Studio Museum, Harlem; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham; The Menil Collection, Houston

1982, Black Folk Art in America 1930-1980, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Selected Collections

American Folk Art Museum, New York
Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne
High Museum of Art, Atlanta
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Montgomery Museum of Art, Montgomery, Alabama
Museum of Modern Art, New York

Selected Bibliography

Sobel, Mechal, Painting a Hidden Life: The Art of Bill Traylor, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 2009.

Sacred and Profane: Voice and Vision in Southern Self-Taught
 Art, ed. Carol Crown and Charles Russell, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 2007.

Inner Worlds Outside
, exhibition catalogue, Fundacíon "La Caixa," WhiteChapel Gallery, Irish Museum of Modern Art & Ediciones El Viso, Madrid, 2006.

Bonsteel, Michael, Bill Traylor Drawings: From the Collection of Joseph H. Wilkinson, Chicago Office of Fine Arts, Chicago, 1988.

Livingston, Jane and John Beardsley, Black Folk Art in America, 1930 – 1980, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 1982.

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