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William Edmondson

1874–1951, b. Davidson County, TN; d. Nashville, TN

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Born to freed slaves outside Nashville, Tennesee, William Edmondson is widely considered one of the most important American sculptors of the 20th century. A menial laborer until a job-related accident forced him to take a position as a hospital janitor, Edmondson did not begin sculpting until 1931, when called to do so by God. Early works were primarily commissions by church members for memorials and grave markers, though his figures, animals, and "critter" abstractions cemented his reputation as modernist master. Working in limestone because it was inexpensive and available locally, Edmondson carved several hundred pieces over the last twenty years of his life.

William Edmondson was given his first exhibition in 1937 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the first one-person exhibition given to an African American artist at any major museum. Today, Edmondson's carvings are included in many museum collections, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; Newark Museum, New Jersey; Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, Williamsburg; The Cheekwood Museum, Nashville.

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Miracles: The Sculptures of William Edmondson


From a Chestnut Hill porch to the Barnes Foundation, by way of PMA, a long-lost sculpture finds it way

The Philadelphia Inquirer

William Edmondson


Aug 29, 2023

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Dear John


New York, NY
Mar 19–Apr 24, 2021 

In collaboration with Adams and Ollman and Fleisher/Ollman


James Castle
Felipe Jesus Consalvos
William Edmondson
Lee Godie
William Hawkins
Philadelphia Wireman
Eugene Von Bruenchenhein
Bill Walton
Joseph Yoakum

Mar 24, 2021

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Outliers and American Vanguard Art

National Gallery of Art

Washington, DC

Jan 28–May 13, 2018


Curated by Lynne Cooke, and including Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, James Castle, Howard Finster, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Elijah Pierce, Horace Pippin, Christina Ramber, Martín Ramírez, Edgar Tolson, Bill Trayor, P.M. Wentworth, H.C. Westermann, Joseph Yoakum, Forrest Bess, Roger Brown, William Edmondson, Lee Godie, Morris Hirshfield, among others.

Jan 27, 2018

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A Being in The World

Billy and Steven Dufala, William Edmondson, and Bill Traylor are included in "A Being in The World" at Salon 94 Bowery, curated by Jayson Musson and Fabienne Stephan.

A Being in The World
June 29, 2016–July 29, 2016
Salon 94 Bowery

Jul 15, 2016

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Top Ten From the Armory Show Modern

David Ebony of Art in America has named Fleisher/Ollman Gallery one of the ten best booths at this year's Armory Show Modern.

Ebony writes: "It would be difficult to find a better example of Ed Paschke's work than the 1970 painting of a figure playing an accordion on view here. Corresponding with canvases by Christina Ramberg, whose figurative abstraction closely relate to those of the Chicago Imagists, it was the centerpiece of a booth containing sculpture by William Edmondson and the Philadelphia Wireman. Recent works by young artists, such as the team of Steven and Billy Blaise Dufala, more than held their own here. Known for focusing on environmental issues in their works, the brothers showed large watercolors of the floating islands of plastic bottles and other refuse that litter the oceans, as well as a peculiar, jerry-built machine sculpture that resembles a yellow power saw."

Mar 09, 2010

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