5 stars

Indianapolis Museum of Art; through

Sept. 18.

This maximal show, consisting of 70

works created over a period of 20 years, gives real meaning to the

term “body of work.” Dial is an artist who seems

compelled to see just how much meaning a work of art can hold, to

make art so fully of its time and place that traditional

two-dimensional boundaries aren’t enough.

Thus a piece from 1992, “The Last

Day of Martin Luther King,” includes wood, carpet, wire screen,

metal pans, broken glass, mop cords, cloth, string and enamel. This

insistence on inclusion – the need to get everything in and,

even more, to get it right — invests virtually all the pieces

on view with an electrifying physicality.

Each of the seven galleries in this

exhibition opens like an embrace. Dial, who was born in Alabama in

1928, and spent most of his life working as a welder for the Pullman

Standard railroad car company, has a bone-deep gift for metaphor.

Throughout this show, brilliantly

orchestrated into a series of interlocking themes reflecting Dial’s

rural past, the plight of the city, troubled times in the larger

world, as well as Dial’s creative spirit and spirituality, by

curator Joanne Cubbs, we find an artist who is not only profoundly

reflective, but whose experience of the world continually causes him

to seek larger contexts, a meaning beyond himself, and a connection

to community that is simultaneously grounded in political awareness

and cosmic appreciation.

A wry, sideways humor also infuses this

work, as in “Driving To the End of the World,” a

five-piece sequence assembled from rusted auto parts, or “Shade

Tree Comfort,” an assemblage of scrap metal, barbed wire and

tree branches that achieves a brutal honesty. A gallery devoted

solely to Dial’s drawing, an array of primarily female figures

with gravity-defying heads and sinuous, dancing bodies, is an added,

joyful revelation.

This show, which will tour to other

cities following its closure here on Sept. 18, is another in a

lengthening string of hits by the IMA. It’s cause for


See the slideshow below for photos of Dial's work:


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