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date: 19 November 2019

Bolling, Leslielocked

(b Dendron, Surry County, VA, Sept 16, 1898; d New York, Sept 27, 1955).
  • Jacqueline S. Taylor

Extract

(b Dendron, Surry County, VA, Sept 16, 1898; d New York, Sept 27, 1955).

American sculptor. Educated at Hampton Institute and Virginia Union University, Leslie Garland Bolling supported himself through a number of jobs, working as a porter and as a schoolteacher, while perfecting his skill at carving wood into sculpture. Between 1926 and 1943 Bolling created over 80 wood sculptures consisting of portrait busts, nudes and figures illustrating African American life. His work was recognized by local art critics and supported by exhibition through the Richmond Academy of Arts (now the Virginia Museum of Fine Art) and New York’s Harmon Foundation, as well as important venues across the country.

Bolling’s technique consisted of drawing the figure from two angles on paper, tracing the cutout onto wood along two faces, then roughing out the shape with a scroll saw and carving the details using one of several ordinary pocketknives. The figures were generally finished with a light wax and sometimes painted. Although never self-consciously political, Bolling carved sculptures that celebrated the integrity of everyday African American life, and thus challenged prevailing class and racial stereotypes. Moreover, his work contributed to contemporary discourses of modern American art, blurring the arbitrary distinctions between “folk-” and “fine art,” while combining a keen sense of realism and abstraction. His nude figures were clearly individualized yet observed an abstract interpretation of African aesthetics with their overemphasized, physical proportions....

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