William Dunlap: Look at It - Think About It (SCGA)

Thursday, September 1, 2016 All Day - Friday, October 28, 2016
Sumter County Gallery of Art

William Dunlap: Look At It – Think About It 

September 1 – October 28, 2016


The Sumter County Gallery of Art is honored to present Look at It — Think About It, a survey exhibition of select works by William Dunlap, dating from the 1970s to the present. Opening reception, Thursday, September 1st, 5:30 – 7:30 with the Artist talk 6:30-7:30. This exhibition was presented at the Katzen Museum at American University in Washington DC this past spring. Paintings, constructions, and works on paper, found and fashioned objects all reflect the artist’s interest in the narrative tradition in the visual arts and modernisms concerns with remote association and conceptualism. In the appropriately titled exhibition, the artist seeks to present a simple lesson about his work and art in general—to look at it and think about it. Dunlap emphasizes the contemplative, meditative effect of standing before an object, letting it affect its viewer as it may.


William Dunlap has distinguished himself as an artist, arts commentator and educator, during a career that has spanned more than three decades. His paintings, sculpture and constructions are included in prestigious collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Lauren Rogers Museum, IBM Corporation, Federal Express, The Equitable Collection, Rogers Ogden Collection, Arkansas Art Center, the U.S. State Department, and United States Embassies throughout the world.


He has had solo exhibitions at the Corocoran Gallery of Art, National Academy of Science, Aspen Museum of Art, Albany Museum of Art, Mint Museum of Art, Mississippi Museum of Art, and Contemporary Art Center in New Orleans. “Panorama of the American Landscape”, his fourteen panel, 112 feet long cyclorama painting depicting a contemporary view of the Shenandoah Valley in summer and the Antietam battlefield in winter, was commissioned by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1985, but since its debut has been shown in nearly a dozen American museums, its most recent venue being the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, VA.


Honored in his field, Mr. Dunlap has received awards and fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Lila Wallace/Reader's Digest Foundation for study and travel in Southeast Asia, Warhol Foundation, Virginia Commission for the Arts, Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art/RJR Nabisco Visual Artists Award, and the Mississippi Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts.

He is an inspired speaker and has lectured on art related subjects at colleges, universities, institutions and professional conferences. Dunlap has an M.F.A. from the University of Mississippi, and taught at Appalachian State University in North Carolina (1970-79) and Memphis State University (1979-80.)


From an article in Garden & Gun Magazine, May 2010:

William Dunlap is the quintessential Southern artist. Born in Webster County, Mississippi, to a schoolteacher mother and a father who died when he was three. The family house, called Starnes House, is featured in some of Dunlap’s best-known paintings, as are the purebred Walker hounds his foxhunting grandfather raised. Many of his paintings are long, horizontal vistas in various seasons or bright watercolors “The landscapes that emerged offer a subtext of tension, of loneliness, of expectancy,” the writer Mary Lynn Kotz said at the time. “Faulkner’s themes are repeated by Dunlap—the land abides, surviving all of man’s attempts to cordon it off with boundary lines.” “Dunlap was ahead of the curve in making paintings that address history and place, often through multilayered images that engage the imagination of the viewer.


The dialogue is especially encouraged in what Dunlap calls his “hybrids” of paintings and sculpture that incorporate the found objects that fascinate him – painted assemblages, many of which will be included in the exhibition at the Sumter gallery. Dunlap sees himself as a symbolist—he’s even coined a term for his work of late, “hypothetical realism.” Though he first meant it tongue in cheek, “it is nevertheless fairly accurate,” he says. “These places I paint are not necessarily real, but they could be. It’s kind of like language in that everything stands in for something else. The dogs stand in for people, the places are generic but they’re specific. At a show in Boston, I heard someone say, ‘Oh, those are the White Mountains of New Hampshire.’ They were the Southern Appalachians, but it didn’t matter. He’d filled in the blanks.”



Dunlap is an artist firmly in the Southern tradition with a wide-ranging interest in history, folk art, animals in art and landscape painting. Karen Watson, Director of the gallery believes Dunlap’s work will have broad appeal and represents the “balance” between traditional and contemporary art necessary to keeping all of our audience engaged. The Sumter County Gallery of Art is also excited about working with the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, GA, which is loaning four large “pastoral and hound” works from their permanent collection.

Look at It – Think about It also includes the Brand Loyalty Series. It’s all about the garments of the Civil War, the remnants of a war carried in the psyche of many Southerners. The Civil War uniforms – from officer to militia, are painted precisely in vibrant colors, but with a few painterly drips. The series also includes aged denim painter’s pants and cut offs – a material continuum from the garments of hard work to the garments of hard war.


Karen Watson, director of the gallery notes that she has gotten to know Mr. Dunlap through numerous emails and phone conversations and can attest to him being a larger than life figure – gregarious, generous, easy to laugh and thoroughly engaged in the business and pleasure of living, writing and art making. She states that she first came to know and love the art of Bill Dunlap when she and her former husband bought a long diptych of a winter scene – cattle returning to the barn, the sky a peach color against the blues and whites of the snow. After almost two years of planning, Watson is thrilled to bring the art of William Dunlap to the Sumter community.


Dunlap will give a gallery talk the night of the opening and the gallery will have copies of his newest book, “Short Mean Fiction – Words and Pictures”, which Dunlap describes "Like tales from the old testament, rampant with sex, violence, and death." and his catalogue “Dunlap”, University of Mississippi Press, available for purchase. 


Watson notes as with all of our exhibitions, we could not bring the art of William Dunlap to Sumter without the support businesses and individuals who believe in bringing quality visual arts to our community: Thompson Construction Group and Thompson Turner Construction, EMS CHEMIE (N.A.), The Helen and Charles “Pap” Propst Trust, Sumter County Cultural Commission which receives support from the John & Susan Bennett Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Fdn of SC, the SC Arts Commission and the Nat’l Endowment for the Arts, and Dr. DeAnne and Elielson Messias. A very special thank you to the Sumter County Gallery of Art Board of Directors for their ongoing and generous support. Flowers courtesy of Carolyn Bishop-McLeod of The Azalea Garden Club & Council of Garden Clubs of Sumter.