Featured Artist: Willie Young

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On January 18, during Americana Week at Christie’s in New York, two Willie Young works from the William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation and Family Collections will be sold to benefit the Foundation and the Harlem Children’s Zone.

Approximately 20 pieces by Willie Young will also be on view in a companion gallery at Christie’s from January 12-18, 2019. The works in the exhibition have been lent by the Willie Young Collection and the William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation.

View the Christie’s online catalogue here.


Willie Young was born in 1942 and has lived and worked near Dallas, Texas, his entire life. As a young man, he attended local drawing classes -- the only formal art training he ever received. From the 1970s Young has worked in relative obscurity as he shined shoes at various barbershops in the Dallas area, setting up makeshift studios from the perch of his chair and keeping pencils, chalk and a magnifying glass amid his brushes and shoe polish. Between shoe shines he produces meticulously rendered graphite drawings, carefully signing and dating each piece. 

Young’s art has a steady, independent voice and an obsessive dedication to the craft of drawing. Working with graphite on found paper and in spiral-bound notebooks, his dreamlike images, suspended in negative space, include ethereal floating bones with long tentacles and painstakingly articulated surreal landscapes. Young’s work has been shown at galleries in Atlanta, Texas, and Chicago.

Chapman Kelley, an artist and gallery owner himself, was an early and important leader in the social and artistic community of Dallas, Texas. His early mentorship of Young was pivotal, providing him with steady employment as well as assistance as an artist. Through Chapman Kelley, Young’s first solo exhibition was mounted with Ricco Maresca Gallery in New York in 1993. Since, Willie Young has been featured in the museum exhibitions A World of Their Own: Twentieth Century American Folk Art (1995; Newark Museum); A Labor of Love (1996, The New Museum of New York); and Inside the Outside: Five Self-Taught Artists from the William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation (2015; Katonah Museum of Art). His first retrospective exhibition was held in 2009 at the African American Museum in Dallas.