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Joseph E. Yoakum: What I Saw

The Museum of Modern Art

November 28, 2021 – March 19, 2022

Joseph E. Yoakum (American, 1891 – 1972). Grizzly Gulch Valley Ohansburg Vermont, n.d.. Black ballpoint pen and watercolor on paper. 7 7/8 × 9 7/8″ (20 × 25.1 cm). Gift of the Raymond K. Yoshida Living Trust and Kohler Foundation, Inc. 1793.2012. Photo: Robert Gerhardt

Joseph E. Yoakum (American, 1891 – 1972). Grizzly Gulch Valley Ohansburg Vermont, n.d.. Black ballpoint pen and watercolor on paper. 7 7/8 × 9 7/8″ (20 × 25.1 cm). Gift of the Raymond K. Yoshida Living Trust and Kohler Foundation, Inc. 1793.2012. Photo: Robert Gerhardt

The Museum of Modern Art announces Joseph Yoakum: What I Saw, the first major museum exhibition of the artist’s work in over 25 years, on view at MoMA from November 28, 2021, through March 19, 2022. At age 71, Joseph Yoakum (1891–1972) began making idiosyncratic, poetic landscape drawings of the places he had traveled over the course of his life, creating some 2,000 extraordinary works that bear little resemblance to the world we know. This exhibition is comprised of over 100 of those works, predominantly from the collections of the artists in Chicago who knew him and admired and supported his work.

Yoakum was born in Ash Grove, Missouri (despite his own later claim that Window Rock, Arizona, was his birthplace) just 25 years after the end of the Civil War. He left home as a child to work with several popular traveling circuses, and this took him across the United States and abroad, as did his service in an all–African American noncombat unit in Europe during World War I. Yoakum’s familiarity with far-flung landscapes, then, was real; he claimed to have visited every continent except Antarctica. These travels, paired with a worldview informed by religious faith and the tenets of Christian Science, shaped his artistic vision. “Wherever my mind led me, I would go,” Yoakum once said. “I’ve been all over this world four times.”

Joseph Yoakum: What I Saw is organized by Esther Adler, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, MoMA; Mark Pascale, Janet and Craig Duchossois Curator of Prints and Drawings, The Art Institute of Chicago; and Édouard Kopp, John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation Chief Curator, Menil Drawing Institute, Houston. The exhibition will be on view at the Art Institute of Chicago from June 12 through Oct 18, 2021, and following its MoMA presentation it will travel to the Menil Collection, Houston, where it will be on view from April 22 through August 7, 2022.

Generous support for the exhibition is provided by the Dian Woodner Exhibition Endowment Fund.

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