Tanner|Hill Gallery Presents Willie Young
Outsider Art Fair Paris
October 2016

Untitled, 2004. Graphite on paper, 24 x 18 in. Detail

Untitled, 2004. Graphite on paper, 24 x 18 in. Detail

OAF Paris 2016
October 20-23
Hotel du Duc 22 rue de la Michodière, 75002

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Tanner|Hill Gallery is pleased to present the work of Willie Young at Paris OAF 2016. This will be the first time Young’s work will be shown outside of the United States.  

Willie Young was born in 1942 and has lived and worked in and near Dallas, TX his entire life. He is, broadly categorized, a self-taught artist. With the exception of the drawing classes he attended with Chapman Kelley’s in the 1960’s Young’s practice has developed independently, and in large part amid the quiet bustle of the barbershop where he worked shining shoes for the past several decades.

The “self-taught” designation is of course irrelevant to the viewing of actual artworks, and in Young’s case the term seems particularly anomalous as applied to drawings that powerfully contradict unspoken assumptions of works made outside the mainstream. Where qualities of blunt and uncensored expression might be expected, Young’s drawings are unvaryingly fine-handed: they are suggestive instead of forthright, muted instead of overt. They bring to mind a creative state of sustained and patient invention - in which cryptic forms unfurl through a deliberate cross hatch. Young’s restrained palette is limited to the dull sheen of graphite from a 2B pencil, occasional touches of white chalk, and the ground of his paper that rarely strays far in tone from the found-kraft wrapping he began using in the 1970’s. 

Commonplace things - roots, acorns, cracked sidewalks - often serve as starting points for Young’s works. Revisited in countless variation through series of drawings, these initial forms take on new and unknown identities; extending and receding in untethered space, they hint at a sense of subtle freedom and mysterious purpose within the stark confines of the paper’s edge.

It is not surprising that these innately sophisticated drawings are often described in terms of a not-quite-deciphered puzzle. As Sarah Gold wrote of Young’s work in the New York Times:
His untitled pieces feature enigmatic objects — unrecognizable, but executed as carefully as medical illustrations — suspended in negative space, and all of them share a certain sort of clinical, sci-fi aspect. One drawing, of a segmented, horn-shaped form, might be a piece of armor worn by a futuristic warrior; another long-stemmed, geometric structure might be a space station on a distant planet. Still other shapes, bearing long articulated tendrils, suggest protozoan life-forms seen under a microscope.[1]

Tom Patterson, writing for the Winston-Salem review, described Young’s work as follows:
Aside from his finely honed drawing skills, Young’s work is distinctive for what it doesn’t show. In each case he gives what look like a carefully rendered segment of something that mostly goes unseen, as if it’s been erased or shrouded in impossibly dense fog identical in color to the brown wrapping paper on which Young apparently prefers drawing.[2]

Young’s work has been represented by Tanner|Hill Gallery since 2006 and featured in solo exhibitions at numerous art fairs across the United States. His drawings were included in Prospect New Orleans 2015, and were recently on view at the Katonah Museum of Art and the Weatherspoon Art Museum as part of the exhibition “Outside the Inside: Five Self-Taught Artists from The William Louis Dreyfus Foundation.” Young has been nominated this year for a Joan Mitchell Foundation 2016 Emerging Artist Grant.

[1] Sarah Gold, “Outsider Art under one roof at the Katonah Museum of Art,”
New York Times, NY Region, August 13, 2015.
[2] Tom Patterson, “Exhibition from billionaire’s art foundation challenges 'outsider' designation,”
Winston-Salem Journal, July 10, 2016.


Inside the Outside at the Weatherspoon Art Museum
August 2016

Willie Young’s work is currently on view at the Weatherspoon Art Museum in North Carolina, featured in “Inside the Outside: Five Self-Taught Artists from the William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation.” The exhibition includes Young’s drawings alongside the work of self-taught greats - James Castle, Thornton Dial, Nellie Mae Rowe and Bill Traylor. Organized by both the Katonah Museum of Art and Weatherspoon Art Museum, this traveling exhibition will head to the Baker Museum of Art in Naples, FL. next year.
“Inside the Outside” was reviewed in both the New York Times and The Greensboro News and Record.


Willie Young at Griffin Barber Stylist in Farmer’s Branch, Texas. 

Video: Kevin McCarthy

Outsider Art Fair 2016
January 2016

For the past two Outsider Art Fairs we have had solo shows for two different artists: Stephanie Wilde of Boise, Idaho and T.A. Hay of Kentucky. In this year’s fair, we will host a solo exhibition by Dallas based artist, Willie Young.

Although Young ‘scribbled’ most of his early life, as he says, the majority of his graphite drawings have been executed in-between shoe shines at various barbershops around Dallas since the mid-60s.

Freely drawn, untitled pieces on solid fields of found brown paper make up his earliest body of work. Young’s pieces expand from atmospheric, organic drawings seemingly untethered by gravity to nonspecific but heavily grounded surreal ‘landscapes’. Narrative is so unimportant to Young that he has never titled any piece.

Although narrative elements are extraneous to Young’s drawings, and his works are thematically unrecognizable, Young has said his work is inspired by observing ‘small life details’  - from a crack in the concrete, to the bones of small animals he has found and kept for inspiration, or dust particles floating in a framed window.

Most recently Young’s work was included in the Katonah Museum of Art exhibition Inside the Outside: Five Self-Taught Artists from the William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation. The exhibition travels to the Weatherspoon Museum of Art opening in May 2016.

The Outsider Art Fair has been a wonderful show this year, with the new venue of the Metropolitan Pavilion serving artists, exhibitors and visitors well. Winter Storm Jonas has given us all some challenges, but we're open and enjoying the intimate feeling lent to the day by the inclement weather outside. There have been many favorites, pictured here are Stephanie Wilde's work at Stewart Gallery, and Thornton Dial's "Smooth-Going Cats Going to the Top", 1988, at Fred Giampietro.


Stephanie Wilde wins Joan Mitchell Foundation grant
Jan 2016

American, b. 1952

As an artist, this is simply her time. Stephanie Wilde’s work is among that of a small group of uncommon artists I have had the pleasure of discovering.

One of the imperatives to the understanding Wilde’s work is the essentialness of the narrative. If heard and understood, Wilde is one of the humble voices speaking truth via strikingly beautiful imagery. In my twenty-five years searching for talent in unusual places, I found this quiet yet profound voice in the Snake River Plain of Boise, Idaho.

In December 2015, the Joan Mitchell Foundation of New York announced that Stephanie Wilde is one of the 2015 Painters/Sculptors Grant Recipients. In addition, Wilde has been accepted as a residence artist in 2017at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program outside of San Francisco, California.

Hopefully, these recent awards are further indication that maybe, just maybe, the art world will slow down to appreciate truly mindful work beautifully executed.