UNCG Campus Weekly

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Weatherspoon hosts William Louis-Dreyfus collection of self-taught artists

051816Feature_InsideOutsideThe Weatherspoon Art Museum hosts “Inside the Outside: Five Self-Taught Artists from the William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation” May 21 to Sep. 4.

“Inside the Outside” showcases the work of James Castle, Thornton Dial, Nellie Mae Rowe, Bill Traylor and Willie Young.

Each of these artists has examined an idiosyncratic personal reality to create works full of imaginative and visual power, works that stand beside the canon of the mainstream art world.

William Louis-Dreyfus is the father of actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus, known for her role as Elaine Benes on “Seinfeld.” Julia also produced the 2015 documentary “Generosity of Eye,” which explores her father’s passion for sharing and collecting art.

William Louis-Dreyfus began collecting the works of self-taught artists in the 1970s with the purchase of a Bill Traylor drawing. He now owns more than 500 works by these artists, within his over-all collection of 3,500 objects, which includes well-known names such as Jean Dubuffet, Albert Giacometti, Helen Frankenthaler, Red Grooms and Alice Neel. When asked what caused him to collect self-taught art, he explains that, “I think the answer is not anything different from what propelled me to collect art itself, namely a conviction that the work achieves an inescapable and meaningful artistic presence: the quality that differentiates art from illustration.

Three of the exhibition’s artists grew up in the Deep South: Thornton Dial on a tenant farm in Alabama, Nellie Mae Rowe on a farm in rural Georgia, and Bill Traylor, born a slave in Alabama, who only began to draw and paint at age 84. Willie Youn participated as a child in a scholarship art class at the Dallas Museum of Art but found his own voice using only pencil as a medium. James Castle was born deaf and spent his entire life at his rural family home in Idaho.

The exhibition was co-organized by Darsie Alexander, Executive Director, Katonah Museum of Art and Nancy Doll, Director, Weatherspoon Art Museum. ArtsGreensboro and the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation are sponsors of the exhibition at the Weatherspoon. Thank you to the City of Greensboro for their support of the Fringe on Film Series.”

Related Events

  • Members’ Gallery Talk: William Louis-Dreyfus and Nancy Doll
    Friday, May 20, 6 pm; Public Reception, 6:30 pm
    Free and open to the public. No reservations necessary.
  • Films: Fringe on Film Series
    Thursdays, June 2, July 7 & August 4, 7 p.m.* Often considered on the fringe of the art world, the self-taught artists in this summer’s film series demonstrate a creative visual reality that is remarkably unique and contemporary. June 2: “Generosity of Eye” (2015, 63 min.), July 7: “James Castle: Portrait of an Artist” (2008, 53 min.), August 4: “Mr. Dial Has Something to Say” (2007, 60 min.). * Enjoy pre-film refreshments and tours: Complimentary beer and refreshments hosted by the Membership Committee of the Weatherspoon Art Museum (6-7 p.m); mini tours of “Inside the Outside” (6:30-7 p.m). Free.

Visual: Nellie Mae Rowe, “Big Cat”, c. 1980, ballpoint and felt tip ink on paper. The William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation.