A Cut Above presents the varied approaches of a group of artists to a common material. From discarded or inexpensive manufactured board to naturally occurring branches, roots, and stumps, wood is widely available to artists without access to or interest in traditional art supplies or schools.
Some sculptors are uniquely receptive to how the natural properties of wood—its bulk, hue, grain, and essential spirit—harbor narrative, human, and animal forms that are not visible to others. The self-taught artists whose works are on display brilliantly reveal the inner life of their medium. Leroy Almon and Elijah Pierce communicate their insights through finely cut bas-relief panels, while Bessie Harvey and Ralph Griffin animate tree fragments into roughly hewn creatures.
On view for the first time, the exemplary wood carvings in this exhibition come from three substantial gifts that collector, scholar and advocate Gordon W. Bailey has made to the Museum since 2010. His largest and most recent gift of paintings, sculptures, and works on paper is particularly transformative, strengthening the Museum’s holdings of work by Southern, African American, and self-taught artists.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website