Have you been to see the Hard Truths exhibition? Spent time with it? I pose the latter question because absorbing what is present in the works requires time to linger. On my most recent viewing, it was Heaven and Hell on Earth that drew me in for deeper consideration. Depth, density, layers of meaning and complexity. There is so much there. It takes time and it’s worth it.
In the same way, to talk about Thornton Dial, to consider the artist’s place both removed from and edging into the mainstream art world, to put into context his work and view of the world, and relate it to broader truths about American art, culture, history, and values—it’s an exciting and meaningful challenge. But Rome wasn’t built in a lunch hour lecture. So we’re giving it a day.
This Friday at the Toby is the big event: Hard Truths: A Forum on Art and the Politics of Difference. It’s not a straight-forward symposium. There will be a podium, yes, and a succession of first-rate deep thinkers who will approach the topics of the day from a variety of fascinating perspectives. But discussion sessions will also keep things very lively.
For example, Julian Bond, American civil rights all-star, will connect Dial’s experience and presentation as a black artist to the history, present, and future of the modern civil rights movement. Bond will then go straight from the podium into a conversation with forum speaker Greg Tate (his talk title: Neo-hoodoo Imaginations and Hollering Bebop Ghosts in the Southern Black Visionary Tradition). Important thinkers from the local community have also been invited, such as Roderick E. Bohannan, attorney with Indiana Legal Services, Inc., who will join Bond and Tate onstage. Audience members will be welcome to join in. IUPUI professor Modupe Labode will moderate these open discussions. It’s fair to anticipate a slew of audience members with arms up in the air ready for the next available microphone. And each session’s speaker and discussions with take the conversation down another exciting path.
Moving from one talk to the next, we may find ourselves wishing for a moment to return to a topic that was deferred due to time. There will be great opportunities to revisit. First among these: included with the forum ticket is admission to the Dial exhibition. I’m telling you, you need more time in there. Later, after a nice break for dinner, Forum speaker Theaster Gates and ensemble The Black Monks of Mississippi will take the stage (again, included with the forum ticket) to perform And the Whole Yard Said Amen in response to Dial and the day. What happens when you intertwine the sounds and moods of southern gospel and eastern chanting and add a layer of blues? Come and find out. To further celebrate all this, we’ll next move from the Toby to a catered reception in the museum’s Nourish Café. Great conversations will recommence.
Hope to see you there. We need to talk.