1886 - 1972
In old age, living alone on Chicago's Southside, Joseph Yoakum began to make drawings under what he called "the force of a dream." The Lord gave me instructions, "he said". "My drawings are a spiritual unfoldment." Yoakum's work is focused on a remarkable vision of the landscape. Indeed, his great accomplishment was in expressing the interconnectedness, the oneness, the very structure of the world. He invented a vocabulary of the most fantastic forms to encompass the range and sweep of his imagination. In his pictures, great mountains expand and grow, opening up and out, punctured by pockets of trees, forests, and rivulets.
While the landscape may have provided the vehicle, his true subject is the astonishment, the adventure, and the discovery of the world. His is a world full of meaning, a world of plentitude, a world at once new and familiar, surprising, known, one to be recognized and rediscovered. Every work of art is the materialization of an almost indescribable personal experience. Yoakum's incredibly rich and inventive body of work stands as a major achievement in visual language. While Yoakum must certainly be laced in the great tradition of 20th century outsider and ivsionary artists, one must remember that his work, like all great art, transcends such arbitrary limits and categories.
Joseph Yoakum's originality, his uniqueness, and his irreducibility ar e manifested in these modestly sized, powerful works. He enlarges, deepens, and increases the magic and the wonder of the world around us and within us.
(Excerpted, in part, from YOAKUM, a 1982 Hammer and Hammer/ American Folk Art Gallery exhibition, Ken Hodorowski, Director)