Exhibition | Art and Artists of South Carolina: David Drake, Jasper Johns, William H. Johnson, and Grainger McKoy

Jun 13, 2018 — Mar 8, 2020

The contributions of South Carolina artists to our culture are as varied and rich as the stories of the artists themselves. The GCMA is proud to dedicate an entire gallery to the accomplishments of four of the nation's greatest artists, each of whom has called South Carolina home.

Edgefield potter David Drake (circa 1800 – circa 1870) openly expressed his literacy by inscribing original poems on many of the utilitarian works he created, transforming them into works of art that speak for millions of enslaved African-Americans. Through these modest and magnificent wares, at least one remarkable voice remains to speak on behalf of the lives and stories irretrievably lost. The GCMA is home to the largest institutional collection of pottery vessels by David Drake, including single-handle jugs, storage jars, pitchers, a syrup jug, and a rare butter churn.

Jasper Johns (born 1930) is the world’s most critically acclaimed living artist. His work bridges the immediate post-World War II modernist trends of Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism with subsequent movements of the 1960s, including Pop art, Minimalism, and Conceptual art. Drawn from the Museum’s extensive holdings of the artist’s work, the exhibition includes both original works and prints. Throughout his career, Johns has recast his flags, targets, and other borrowed subjects, and in the process he has transformed both the images and their potential meaning.

Growing up in Florence, William H. Johnson (1901-1970) dropped out of school to work for the railroad, helping to support his family and saving to make his way to New York. Once there, he continued to work a series of odd jobs to pay for his classes at the National Academy of Design. One of his instructors, impressionist painter Charles Hawthorne, helped fund Johnson’s first trip to Paris. From there he traveled throughout Europe and North Africa, experimenting with modernist styles and palettes. Successful critically and commercially, Johnson and his Danish wife returned to the U.S. just ahead of World War II. The GCMA is home to the largest collection of work by William H. Johnson outside the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

Renowned South Carolina sculptor Grainger McKoy (born 1947) attended Clemson University, earning a degree in zoology, while also studying architecture. After graduating, McKoy apprenticed for eighteen months with the renowned bird carver Gilbert Maggioni in Beaufort. Working in the tradition of naturalists and artists Mark Catesby and John James Audubon, McKoy portrays in accurate detail each bird in its natural environment. His subjects may be observed and admired amid flush, flight, or struggle. Each of McKoy’s sculptures is a demonstration of artistic rendering, architecture, and engineering.