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Exhibition: Past Joseph Elmer Yoakum DrawingsOct 04–Oct 15, 1976


Joseph Elmer Yoakum was born on the Window Rock Navajo Reservation in Arizona in 1886, or possibly 1888, the exact date is in question. His life prior to 1962 was spent in work and travel around the world within circuses, on freighters, and on railroads with a period of service in France during World War I.

In 1961 Yoakum was inspired by a dream to make a drawing. This proved to be the key opening into a rich trove of memories and imagination which resulted in the production of a large body of drawings made during the rest of his life. The drawings are of specific sites around the world recollected by Yoakum from actual experience but filtered through a wondrous imagination and structured by a unique sense of two-dimensional visual form. They constitute a wonderland, a view of our world not exactly as it is to others but as it could be if only we had the vision of this unusual man.

The uniqueness of his vision and works soon came to the attention of members of the “Hairy Who” group of artists in Chicago who collected his drawings. This recognition soon led to public exhibitions of his work from 1966 on. Since then his works have been shown in one-man and group exhibitions in Chicago, New York, and other cities in the United States.

Joseph Elmer Yoakum died in Chicago in 1972. His unique vision of the world he inhabited for over 80 years is left to us in his drawings. We are privileged to share that vision through the generosity of the loan of drawings for this exhibition by the Douglas Kenyon Gallery of Chicago.



Joseph Elmer Yoakum