Bill Traylor | David Zwirner

Bill Traylor

David Zwirner is pleased to present works by Bill Traylor (c. 1853–1949) from The William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation and Family Collections.

Organized in collaboration with the Foundation, the exhibition offers a comprehensive look at the artist’s distinctive imagery, which mixes subjects and iconography from the American South with a strong formalistic treatment of color, shape, and surface. As part of the Foundation’s broader philanthropic mission, proceeds from the sales of its artworks will benefit the Harlem Children’s Zone, as well as the Foundation itself.

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Cover Image: Bill Traylor, Blue Rabbit Running, 1939–1942

All Bill Traylor artwork is used with permission from Bill Traylor Family, Inc., and The Artistry of Bill Traylor, LLC.

Dates
October 29, 2019February 1, 2020
Opening reception
Tuesday, October 29, 6–8 PM
Artist
Bill Traylor
An archival photo of Bill Traylor working under a shade tree in a Montgomery neighborhood

Alabama artist Bill Traylor working under a shade tree in a Montgomery neighborhood, 1946. Photo courtesy of the Alabama State Council on the Arts

Alabama artist Bill Traylor working under a shade tree in a Montgomery neighborhood, 1946. Photo courtesy of the Alabama State Council on the Arts

A drawing by Bill Traylor, titled Brown House with Multiple Figures and Birds, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Brown House with Multiple Figures and Birds, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
20 1/2 x 17 5/8 inches (52.1 x 44.8 cm)
“Bill Traylor’s brilliant but meteoric artistic moment is unprecedented… The real adventure of finding meaning in Bill Traylor’s art is ours alone.”
—Kerry James Marshall
A drawing by Bill Traylor, titled Pointing Man in Hat and Blue Pants with Cane, dated 1939 to1942.

Bill Traylor

Pointing Man in Hat and Blue Pants with Cane, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
19 3/4 x 9 1/8 inches (50.2 x 23.2 cm)
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Preaching in Circle with Figures, circa 1939 to 1940.

Bill Traylor

Preaching in Circle with Figures, c. 1939-1940
Colored pencil on cardboard
16 1/4 x 13 1/4 inches (41.3 x 33.7 cm)
A pencil drawing work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Exciting Event, Snake, Plow, Figures Chasing Rabbit, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Exciting Event, Snake, Plow, Figures Chasing Rabbit, 1939-1942
Pencil on cardboard
22 1/8 x 14 1/8 inches (56.2 x 35.9 cm)
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Green Man with Two Bottles, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Green Man with Two Bottles, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
13 3/4 x 10 5/8 inches (34.9 x 27 cm)
“One day Traylor picked up a stub of pencil and a scrap of cardboard and began to draw…. He produced hundreds of drawings and paintings that rank among the greatest works of the twentieth century.”
—Roberta Smith
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Hunter on Horseback with Spotted Dog, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Hunter on Horseback with Spotted Dog, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
16 1/2 x 23 1/4 inches (41.9 x 59.1 cm)
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Man in Red Shirt with Hat, Umbrella, and Lunchbox, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Man in Red Shirt with Hat, Umbrella, and Lunchbox, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
12 3/8 x 6 3/4 inches (31.4 x 17.1 cm)
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Red Dog, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Red Dog, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
11 1/2 x 11 3/4 inches (29.2 x 29.8 cm)
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Two Men, Dog, and Owl, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Two Men, Dog, and Owl, 1939-1942
Colored pencil and charcoal on cardboard
13 7/8 x 11 inches (35.2 x 27.9 cm)
“His imagery seemed to just well up from the experiences of his long life. Some seemed to be based on memories of specific people or animals; others were obviously inventions.”
—Charles Shannon
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Woman with Umbrella and Blue Skirt, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Woman with Umbrella and Blue Skirt, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
11 1/4 x 6 3/8 inches (28.6 x 16.2 cm)
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Brown Mule, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Brown Mule, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
12 3/4 x 15 inches (32.4 x 38.1 cm)
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Exciting Event (Man on Chair, Man with Rifle, Dog Chasing Girl, Yellow Bird and Other Figures), dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Exciting Event (Man on Chair, Man with Rifle, Dog Chasing Girl, Yellow Bird and Other Figures), 1939-1942
Poster paint, pencil, colored pencil, and charcoal on cardboard
15 x 11 1/8 inches (38.1 x 28.3 cm)
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Blue Man with Hat atop Construction, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Blue Man with Hat atop Construction, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
15 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches (39.4 x 24.1 cm)
A detail from a work by Bill Traylor, titled Exciting Event (Man on Chair, Man with Rifle, Dog Chasing Girl, Yellow Bird and Other Figures), dated 1939-1942.
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Man with Cane Grabbing Foot, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Man with Cane Grabbing Foot, 1939-1942
Pencil and charcoal on cardboard
11 3/8 x 6 7/8 inches (28.9 x 17.5 cm)
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Wild Animal, dated 1939-1942.

Bill Traylor

Wild Animal, 1939-1942
Pencil and charcoal on cardboard
14 x 11 inches (35.6 x 27.9 cm)
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Blue Rabbit Running, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Blue Rabbit Running, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
9 x 11 7/8 inches (22.9 x 30.2 cm)
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Figures on Construction, Dog Treeing, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Figures on Construction, Dog Treeing, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
15 1/2 x 7 1/8 inches (39.4 x 18.1 cm)
“What red was to Titian, yellow to Van Gogh, a high, singing blue was to Bill Traylor…. The same blue those who grew up in the America South remember from the hand-painted signs in the window of the local grocery stores.’’
—Phil Patton
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Black Heron, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Black Heron, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
11 3/8 x 7 3/4 inches (28.9 x 19.7 cm)
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Brown Spotted Snake, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Brown Spotted Snake, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
10 3/8 x 17 3/4 inches (26.4 x 45.1 cm)
“Traylor’s style has about it both something very old … and something spanking new. Songlike rhythms, evoking the time’s jazz and blues, and a feel for scale … give majestic presence to even the smallest images.”
—Peter Schjeldahl
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Blue Construction with Black and Orange People and Dogs, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Blue Construction with Black and Orange People and Dogs, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
17 3/8 x 11 1/8 inches (44.1 x 28.3 cm)
A drawing by Bill Traylor titled, Man Bent at Waist with a Bottle, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Man Bent at Waist with a Bottle, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
12 x 7 1/4 inches (30.5 x 18.4 cm)
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Man with Cane on Construction, with Dog, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Man with Cane on Construction, with Dog, 1939-1942
Poster paint, pencil, and colored pencil on cardboard
14 1/4 x 7 1/4 inches (36.2 x 18.4 cm)
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Two Fighting Dogs, dated 1939 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Two Fighting Dogs, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
18 1/4 x 20 inches (46.4 x 50.8 cm)
A detail from a work by Bill Traylor, titled Two Fighting Dogs, dated 1939-1942.
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, titled Turtle Swimming Down, circa 1939 to 1940.

Bill Traylor

Turtle Swimming Down, c. 1939-1940
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
11 3/4 x 7 3/4 inches (29.8 x 19.7 cm)
A mixed media work on cardboard by Bill Traylor, Man with Spotted Shirt, Hat, and Umbrella, dated 1993 to 1942.

Bill Traylor

Man with Spotted Shirt, Hat, and Umbrella, 1939-1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
12 1/2 x 6 7/8 inches (31.8 x 17.5 cm)
“Traylor produced a body of work which is ... as important to America’s artistic contribution as are the scrupulously exquisite watercolors of Winslow Homer or the structured paint drippings of Jackson Pollock.”
—William Louis-Dreyfus

References:

Kerry James Marshall, “The Beatitudes of Bill Traylor,” in Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor, 2018
Roberta Smith, “The Shape of the World Passing Before His Eyes,” The New York Times, 2013
Charles Shannon, in an interview published in Bill Traylor: His Art, His Life, 1991
Phil Patton, “High Singing Blue,” in Deep Blues: Bill Traylor 1854–1949, 1999
Peter Schjeldahl, “The Utterly Original Bill Traylor,” The New Yorker, 2018
William Louis-Dreyfus, “Bill Traylor: An American Prodigy,” 1997

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