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Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019
Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2019

Press Release

Joseph Elmer Yoakum with “Mississippi River Neir Noth Side” (p. 96), c. late 1960s.

Joseph Elmer Yoakum with “Mississippi River Neir Noth Side," c. late 1960s. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Whitney B. Halstead papers

Joseph Elmer Yoakum
June 20 – July 26, 2019
Opening: Thursday, June 20th, 6:00 - 8:00 pm

Venus Over Manhattan
980 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10075

(New York, NY)  – Venus Over Manhattan is pleased to present Joseph Elmer Yoakum, an exhibition comprising more than sixty works on paper by the visionary American artist. On the tails of his inclusion in Lynne Cooke’s “Outliers and American Vanguard Art,” the presentation marks the largest group of Yoakum’s work assembled in New York since 1972, when the Whitney Museum of American Art staged a solo exhibition dedicated to his work. In conjunction with the presentation, the gallery will publish a major catalogue featuring a new text on the artist, archival material, and contributions from the Art Institute of Chicago, the Roger Brown Study Collection at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, The Museum of Everything, Jeff Koons, and KAWS. The exhibition will be on view from June 20th through July 26th, 2019.

Joseph Elmer Yoakum St Louis & SanFrancisco Rail Road, n.d.

St Louis & Sanfrancisco Rail Road between Thayer Missouri & Jonesboro Arkansas, n.d.

An artist of African American and Native American descent, Joseph Elmer Yoakum made drawings that describe a life spent traveling, first with the circus as a young man, then with the army during World War I, and later, alone hopping train cars in the American West – all before settling in Chicago, where he committed to a life of art making around 1962. A set of competing narratives seeks to account for the details of his life: per official documentation, Joseph Elmer Yoakum was born to John Yokum (a previous spelling of the family name) and Frances Wadlow on February 20th, 1890, in Ash Grove, Missouri. But according to Yoakum, he was born in 1888, “near the village of Window Rock, Arizona, in the Southwest territory before it were [sic] made the Navajo and Apache Indian reservation.” He often claimed Navajo heritage, referring to himself as “Na-va-JOE,” but his Native American heritage can rather be traced to the Cherokee Nation, through both of his parents. Many aspects of his biography remains similarly uncertain – such as his time spent traveling with the Ringling Brothers Circus, or his role as a billposter for Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show – and contribute to a picture of his life that rests between myth and fact.

The Everglades in So. Florida near town Redland, 1964

The Everglades in So. Florida near town Redland, 1964

Yoakum first settled in Chicago in the late 1920s, where he spent some thirty years working as a mechanic, carpenter, and railroad inspector, before dedicating his life to his art around 1962, at the age of 72. Yoakum relocated to a storefront on Chicago’s South Side in 1966, where he began the most productive period of his career. It was during this time that Yoakum developed his mature style: characterized by a densely patterned and radically flattened approach, Yoakum’s drawings often feature brightly colored geographies, gently moving streams, and complex layers of receding trees. Yoakum claimed to have traveled to each of the locations he drew – locations often denoted by a specific title in the top left quadrant of the page, much like a picture postcard – and that he pulled his compositions from memory. Though many expressed doubts about the truth of his claims, one of the artist’s biographers, Derrel B. DePasse, found that Yoakum had indeed visited may of the places his drawings depict.

Trinity Brazus, n.d.

Trinity and Brazus Valley near Elpaso Texas, 1964

John Hopgood, an instructor at Chicago State College, happened upon Yoakum’s studio in 1967, and immediately recognized the quality of his work. Hopgood organized Yoakum’s first show at The Whole, a coffee shop in the basement of St. Bartholomew’s Church of Englewood, and secured him representation with the Edward Sherbeyn Gallery, which staged a second exhibition of his work in 1968. This exhibition caught the attention of Whitney Halstead, a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, who became Yoakum’s greatest champion. Halstead’s students at the time were a group of artists who came to be known as the Chicago Imagists, and included Roger Brown, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Ed Paschke, and Christina Ramberg, many of whom championed, collected, and drew inspiration from Yoakum’s work. Indeed, as Roger Brown described, finding Yoakum “was like finding [Henri] Rousseau in our own backyard." Yoakum’s success ballooned from there, culminating in a major solo presentation at the Whitney Museum of American Art, curated by Marcia Tucker, which opened just a month before Yoakum died.

Mound Valley, Kansas, n.d.

Mound Valley, Kansas, n.d.

ABOUT JOSEPH ELMER YOAKUM

Joseph Elmer Yoakum was, according to official record, born in Ash Grove, Missouri, in 1890. His work has been the subject of numerous solo presentations, including exhibitions at the David and Alfred Smart Museum of the University of Chicago; Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Yoakum’s work is frequently featured in major group exhibitions, including recent presentations at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia. His work is held many public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; The Menil Collection, Houston; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Joseph Elmer Yoakum lived and worked in Chicago until his death in 1972.


For further information about the exhibition and availability, please contact the gallery at info@venusovermanhattan.com

For all press inquiries related to the exhibition, please email press@venusovermanhattan.com

Joseph Elmer Yoakum Atlantic Ocean at Lisbon Portugal, c. 1960s
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Castle Mountains, New York, c. 1960s
Joseph Elmer Yoakum The First Steam Engine to be assigned to the service of the Kansas City, Ft. Scott + Memphis Run between Kansas City + springfield, missouri on the st Louis + sanfrancisco Rail Road pulling the Kansas City + Florida Special from Kans City to Jacksonville Fla in year of 1901, c. 1960s
Joseph Elmer Yoakum West Coast Range Alberta B.C. Canada, c. 1960s
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Great Dividing Range of Queensland sector near Brisbane, Australia, 1963
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Foot of Mountain Range Near Madrid Spain, c. 1963-1964
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Lime Stone Query of Ash Grove Lime & Portland Cement Company Ash Grove, 1963/1965
Joseph Elmer Yoakum The Outlet in English Channel near Southampton Eng to Lehauerve France; This ship is the Lusatainia Conveyince Service, c. 1963/1967
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Deming, New Mexico at Foot of Florida Mtn Range near town of Deming, 1964
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Fertil Mounds Near Wyanoka Oklahoma, 1964
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mississippi River neir north side of Hanibal Missouri, 1964
Joseph Elmer Yoakum The Everglades in So. Florida near town Redland, 1964
Joseph Elmer Yoakum The Home of Jesse James Near Bonner, 1964
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Trinity and Brazus Valley near Elpaso Texas, 1964
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Imperial Valley, 1965
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Lake Ponchatrain Near New Orleans Lousiana, 1965
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Altai Mtns. Mongolia Asia, c. 1965
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Holly Hills of Jerselam Judea/Now, Palestine, c. 1965
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Moro Rock and Moro Bay Near San-Luis Obispo California by Joseph E. Yoakum, c. 1965
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Gum Pine Tree on Amazon, 1967
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt Look Out in Toppenish Range near Vancouver Washington, 1968
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt. Brenda Brenda in Great Dividing Range, c. 1968
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt. Cook of Southern Alps in South of New Zeland town as Church of Christ, c. 1968
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt Bendeleoew in White Mtn Range Near Taylor Peninsular Alaska, 1969
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt Horseback in Rockey Knob Range near Chillicothe Ohio, 1969
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt. Raft River near Great Salt Lake near Village Grouse Creek, Utah, 1969
Joseph Elmer Yoakum The First Zepolin to compleet the first non stop flight Between New York City + Parris France, 1969
Joseph Elmer Yoakum King Leopold Range, Argyle Downs, Australia, c. 1969
Joseph Elmer Yoakum In Black Mountain Range Near Montgomery Alabama South U.S.A., 1970
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Lake of the Ozarks, 1970
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Looking to the West from..., 1970
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt [title faded], 1970
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt. Kanchen in Himilaya mtn Range near Lhasa China East asia, 1970
Joseph Elmer Yoakum The only woman ruler of Assirea Asia Se., 1970
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Altali Mtn Mongolia Asia, c. 1970
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Dead Sea near Dhioan in Jordan So East Asia, c. 1970
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Little Fall in Spring River Near Thayer Missouri, c. 1970
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt. Monte Rosa in Jura Alps, c. 1970
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt. Shasta 80 Miles West of Susanville In Circayou County California, c. 1970s
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt. Wilhelemina of Nassau Range Near Carstenez New Guinea asia [sic], c. 1970s
Joseph Elmer Yoakum A Long Continentle Divide, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum A Sinclair Oil Refinery, Santiago Cuba, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Argyle Canyon, Utah, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Chieff Gray Eagle Squaw wife Ogalla of Jicarilla Tribe Reservation north of Concord Newhampshire, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Clark Gable Sr. Movie Actor Hollywood California, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Clinch Mtns Near Nashville, Tennessee, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum English Channel at Le Havre France, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Fergus Falls Minnesota, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Grand Prarie Cherryale Kans, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mound Valley Chetopa Kans., n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mound Valley, Kansas, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt Colio of Vericruz sec: near Town Ciowawa Mexico, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt Issoire in Avergne Mtn Range near Clermont France, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt Mckinley Highest Point in North America 20320 FE Near Town of Curry! Anchorage Seetor Alaska, USA, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt. Blanc. Graian Alps Near Chemoix France, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt. Cross Pate in Long Range, Mt. Range near Damals Harber New Foundland, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Mt. Snohetta Near Andalsnes, Norway, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Near Shore of Le Huavre, France, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Sicapoo Mtns Luzon P.I. 7,743 ft, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum St Louis & Sanfrancisco Rail Road between Thayer Missouri & Jonesboro Arkansas, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum The Little Home that Money Can’t Buy, Bay Shore Acroes on Moro Bay San Luis Obispo Cal, n.d.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum Untitled, n.d.
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