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Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of "Joseph Elmer Yoakum," Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of "Joseph Elmer Yoakum," Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of "Joseph Elmer Yoakum," Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of "Joseph Elmer Yoakum," Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of "Joseph Elmer Yoakum," Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of "Joseph Elmer Yoakum," Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of "Joseph Elmer Yoakum," Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of "Joseph Elmer Yoakum," Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of "Joseph Elmer Yoakum," Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of "Joseph Elmer Yoakum," Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of "Joseph Elmer Yoakum," Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of "Joseph Elmer Yoakum," Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of "Joseph Elmer Yoakum," Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of Joseph Elmer Yoakum at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Installation view of "Joseph Elmer Yoakum," Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2021

Press Release

Joseph Elmer Yoakum
Opening: Thursday, September 9th
September 9 - October 2, 2021

Venus Over Manhattan
120 East 65th Street
New York, NY 10065


(New York, NY) – Venus Over Manhattan is pleased to present an exhibition of works by Joseph Elmer Yoakum, the self-taught Chicago artist whose works inspired a generation of artists. This exhibition is timed to coincide with ”Joseph E. Yoakum: What I Saw,” an unprecedented retrospective of Yoakum’s work that will travel from the Art Institute of Chicago to the Museum of Modern Art, and the Menil Collection. In 2019, the gallery mounted the first solo exhibition of Yoakum’s work in New York in more than thirty years, which featured nearly seventy drawings. This exhibition marks the gallery’s third solo presentation of Yoakum’s work.

Press Release 2

Joseph Elmer Yoakum with Mississippi River neir north side of Hannibal Missouri, c. late 1960. Unidentified photographer. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Whitney B. Halstead Papers. Courtesy Venus Over Manhattan, New York

Yoakum’s use of color, dynamic articulation of perspective, and figurative geometry draws out the spiritual nature of landscapes and turn their geography into compelling images. His imaginative use of line and expressive renderings of the natural world captivated artists of younger generations, who found in Yoakum a modern-day Henri Rousseau, a talent at once natural and visionary. This exhibition features some thirty works that showcase the unique blend of the cartographic and the fantastical in Yoakum’s practice.

Yoakum’s works are notable for their unusual geometries, dynamic use of line, and evocative, soft colors. The highly suggestive nature of the artist’s drawings situates them firmly in the space of imagination, despite being inspired by the artist’s travels and his lifelong quest for new vistas and grand landscapes. Many works reference real places, such as the Mt. Vesuvius or Mana Kea in Hawaii, yet the artist made his drawings in Chicago late in his life, when he no longer traveled as he did in his youth. Visually, the works bear out the potency of this ambiguity between fact and fiction—Yoakum uses line to clarify features of a landscape, but he also lends the places he depicts a dream-like quality.

Press Release 3

Joseph Elmer Yoakum, Mt. Lizard Head in San Juan Mtn Range near Silverton Colorado, 1970. Private Collection. Courtesy Venus Over Manhattan, New York.

The tension between geographic reference and myth-making in Yoakum’s works has tended to parallel the mystery surrounding Yoakum’s biography. A man of established African-American and Native American ancestry, he tended to bend facts about his background to suit his personal inclinations—for instance, identifying himself as a Navajo rather than with the Cherokee roots that were proven parts of his heritage. Despite being a self-taught artist who started making art quite late in his life, Yoakum’s life was suffused with an artistry, even prior to his time spent drawing, that colored the way he presented himself to peers and supporters. This self-mythologized persona was arguably an ideal testing ground and mode of development for his sense of imagination and creativity.

The force of Yoakum’s work unburdened the purity of his self-taught status from any association with lack
of skill. Yoakum was a highly original artist as well as a story-teller with a developed sense of narrative and expressive flair. From La Conchita in 1995, artist Roger Brown wrote a letter to curator Mark Pascale stating “I believe this man’s work had the same effect on all of us as Rousseau must have had on Picasso and the others of his generation. How could someone with no training just start making art that was so superior to most of the art of the day done by trained artists?” The answer seems to lie in Yoakum’s willingness to bend reality to his purposes, and his extraordinary gift for drawing out novelty and fantasy within established territories.


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

Press contact
Andrea Schwan, Andrea Schwan, Inc.
info@andreaschwan.com
+ 1 (917) 371-5023

Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Goldhopiggan of Hardangenviddo Glacier near Dombas Norway N.E.E." from 1963
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Florida mtn Range near Deming new Mexico" from 1964
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Red Sea with Egypt and Arabia Bordering Each Side" from 1964
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Moosehead Lake near Town of Rockwood In North Central Maine" from 1965
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Mt Bruce Near, Hamersly Australia" from 1965
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Mt. Cantafrian and Viella Tunnel" from 1965
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Island of Sardinia In Mediterranean Sea Close to Italy" from 1966
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Mt Monterosa near Matterhorn Switzerland Europe" from 1966
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Mt Monterosa in Graino Alps near Little St. Bernardo Pass and Aosta Italy in Europe" from 1967
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Mt Cayambe of Napo – Pastaza Range near Quito Ecuador S.A." from 1967
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Sweeden Valley in allegheny mtn Range near Harrisburg Pennsylvania" from 1968
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "King Leopold Range, Argyle Downs, Australia" from 1969
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Three Sisters Mountain range near McKenzie Ridge" from 1969
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Dead Sea near Dhioan in Jordan So East Asia" from 1970
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "In Black Mountain Range Near Montgomery Alabama South U.S.A." from 1970
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Mt Golleia on North Portion of Antarctica in so west pacific Ocean" from 1970
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Mt. Huerta near Juraz Mexico" from 1970
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Mt. Lizard Head in San Juan Mtn Range near Silverton Colorado" from 1970
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Mt. Vesuvios of Apennes Alps near Naples Italy" from 1970
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Art Linkletter’s Ranch mt Seaview in Great Dividing Range near Sydney Australia" no date
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Cumberland Mtns near Nashville Tennessee" no date
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Go Back Mtn near Stratford New Hampshire" no date
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Lake Ferth of Fourth Eastern Ireland. WE" no date
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Mana Kea near Papaikow on Hawaiian Island USA" no date
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Mt. Cross Pate in Long Range, Mt. Range near Damals Harber New Foundland" no date
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "Mt. Snohetta Near Andaisnes, Norway" no date
Drawing by Joseph Yoakum titled "The Three Great Falls in Missouri River Near Great Falls Montana" no date
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