On Thornton Dial: Richard Dial, Essence Harden, and Umar Rashid

May 20, 2023

On Thornton Dial:
Richard Dial, Essence Harden, and Umar Rashid

On the occasion of Thornton Dial: Handwriting on the Wall—Dial's first major presentation in Los Angeles—Blum & Poe is pleased to present a conversation with the artist's son, sculptor Richard Dial; curator Essence Harden; and artist Umar Rashid on the life and work of the late artist.


About Richard Dial 

Richard Dial was born in 1955 in Bessemer, Alabama. The second son of the artist Thornton Dial, he grew up in a family atmosphere that nurtured creativity and making. Dial worked as a machinist in the same Pullman-Standard boxcar factory as his father and brothers, but harbored hopes of setting up his own business. When the factory closed in the early 1980s, he took the opportunity to set up Dial Metal Patterns, manufacturing furniture with his father and his brother, Thornton Dial Jr. He was head of the business and employed other former workers of the Pullman factory. Dial named his first range of furniture “Shade Tree Comfort.” This theme of comfort became the inspiration for a series of anthropomorphic sculptures he produced from 1987. Based on the familiar form of a chair, the sculptures play with the tension between the chairs’ promise of comfort and the sculptures’ uncomfortable subject-matter. These works, like those of his brother Thornton Jr, often grapple with the intense bonds—and sometimes rivalries—found in a family of artists. Today Dial’s works can be found in collections such as those of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta and Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio. —Rebecca Bray 


About Essence Harden 

Essence Harden is a visual arts curator and program manager at the California African American Museum and an independent arts writer. Harden has curated exhibitions at the California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Antenna Gallery, New Orleans, LA; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), Los Angeles, CA; Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA; Human Resources, Los Angeles, CA; Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA; UTA Artist Space, Los Angeles, CA; El Segundo Museum of Art, El Segundo, CA; Subliminal Projects, Los Angeles, CA; Orange County Museum of Art, Costa Mesa, CA; and Art + Practice, Los Angeles, CA, amongst others. Harden is a contributor to The Los Angeles Times Magazine: Image, SSENSE, Art21, Contemporary Art Review LA (CARLA), Artsy, LALA, Cultured Magazine, Performa Magazine, and SFAQ: International Arts and Culture, and has written catalog entries for Prospect 5: Yesterday we said tomorrow (2021); Brave New Worlds: Exploration of Space: Palm Springs Art Museum (2019); and What Needs to Be Said: Hallie Ford Fellows Exhibition (2019). Harden has also served as an art consultant for film and television, and is a 2018 recipient of The Creative Capital, Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant; and a 2020 Annenberg Innovation Lab Civic Media Fellow. 


About Umar Rashid 

Umar Rashid makes paintings, drawings, and sculptures that chronicle the grand historical fiction of the Frenglish Empire (1648–1880) that he has been developing for over seventeen years. Each work represents a frozen moment from this parallel world that often recalls our own fraught histories—both canonized and marginalized—with familiar signifiers and iconographies that channel the visual lexicons of hip hop, ancient and modern pop culture, gang and prison life, and revolutionary movements throughout time. Rashid’s work is represented in public collections worldwide, including the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Jorge Pérez Collection, Miami, FL; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN; Mount Holyoke Art Museum, South Hadley, MA; Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV; Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Clinton, NY; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT; and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa, among others. Rashid lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. 

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