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Art & Art History

Joseph Elmer Yoakum Drawings

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Monday, October 04, 1976–Friday, October 15, 1976

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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 Yoakum HeadshotJoseph Elmer Yoakum (born 1886? –1972) said that he began to draw at the age of 76. Yoakum came to art following years of work and travel, from working on freighters and railroads, to traveling with the circus and spending time in France with the military during the First World War. It was not until 1962, when, inspired by a dream, that he made his first drawing. Yoakum proceeded to work intensely on his art over the next eight years, often producing multiple pieces each day.

Yoakum ’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Artist House, New York; Northern Illinois University, Dekalb; Douglas Kenyon Gallery, Chicago; Wabash Transit Gallery, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Rockford College Art Gallery, Rockford, Illinois; Candy Store Gallery, Folsom, California; Pennsylvania State University Art Museum, University Park; and Sherbayn Gallery, Chicago.

Image: Portrait of Joseph Yoakum, Courtesy Prints and Drawings Dept., Art Institute of Chicago.


Jospeh Elmer Yoakum

Asher Creek through Motbey Peak near Bolivar Missouri in Ozarks

Buffalo Bill Farm near Trinidad Colorado

Central Portion of Sanfernando Valley near Passarobles California

Chief Gray Eagle Squaw wife Ogalla of Jicarilla Tribe, Reservation north of Concord New Hampshire

The Cycamon Valley near Chillicothy Missouri

Devils Back Bone, in Mt. Messa near Trinadad Colorado

Foot Bridge Crossing Royal Gorge Pass Highest Bridgeway in U.S.A. near Colorado Springs Colorado

German Submarine in Worlds War-2. Found near Tunis of Tunisia Proviance of Aforica

Granit Mts. South west Utah

Le High Valley near Reeding Village Pennsylvania

McDonald Pass Rockey Mtn. Montanna

Merimac Mtn. of Ozark Mtn. Range and Route #66 out of St. Louis, to Lebanon Missouri

Mt. Brigham along continental Divide near Tryslu Alberta Canada north of northwestern Montana

Mt. Carstensz. Netherlands New Guinea

Mt. Demaveno near Meshad Iran SE Asia

Mt. Evans in Southern Range near Brunner of South Island New Zealand

Mt. Gerizim near Arumah Samaria and close to Mt. Ephram

Mt. Hemron; of Black Hills Range near Sioux Falls South Dakota

Mt. Polkin near Strelka, Central Siberian up lands of Soviet Russia

Mt. Pontiac near Sampsus Turkey

Mt. puy-De-Sancy in Auvergne Mtn. Range and Death Valley in WW #1. Near Clermont Ferrand France

Mt. Telescope in Amargosa Range near Darwin California

Nat King Cole Roveing Comedian & Entertainer, age & Birth Place not sure

Olympian Valley in Puget Sounds northern Washington state near Salsberry

The out let in English Channel near Southampton Eng. to Lehauerve France. this ship is the Lusatainia conveyince service

Pine Mtn. of Appalachian Mtn. Range of Pine forest Valley near Johnburgh Vermont

The Sea of Galilee near Nazareth, Palestine

Twin Lakes near Medford Wisconsin, 1965
Carbon transfer with graphite, on cream wove paper, 307 x 458 mm.

West Face Grand Prainy near McCook Nebraska

West Tip of Ohio Valley near Blyth Cave at Charlot Kentuckey along Ohio River