“He likened Traylor to the greats—the Giacomettis, the Kandinskys.”
"The actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus remembers her father, William Louis-Dreyfus, swearing on the phone in the 1990s as he almost got outbid on a painting by Bill Traylor, the Alabama artist born into slavery who took up drawing around age 85.
'He amassed quite a number of them,' she said of the works, which the artist made with scraps of cardboard as his canvas, using poster paint, charcoal and pencil. 'He really likened Traylor to the greats—the Giacomettis, the Kandinskys.'
Forty of those Traylors will go on view at the David Zwirner Gallery’s Upper East Side space on Tuesday in an exhibition whose proceeds will mostly go toward the Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit organization that seeks to break the cycle of poverty for youngsters in Central Harlem through education.
The show includes prime examples of Traylor’s signature style—elegantly spare, alternately buoyant and elegiac. Despite their stick-figure minimalism, the characters in his paintings and drawings have personality; his rabbits, birds and dogs seem to move through space.
'They’re almost modern in composition,' Ms. Louis-Dreyfus said, “and they have a joyfulness that reminds me of my father at his best.'"
Read the full feature in The New York Times
Bill Traylor is on view through February 8, 2020 at 34 East 69th Street, New York.
Image: Alabama artist Bill Traylor working under a shade tree in a Montgomery neighborhood, 1946. Photo courtesy of the Alabama State Council on the Arts