George Wardlaw


Never confined by categories, American Painter George Wardlaw explores medium, form, scale, and color as a lifelong dialogue between abstraction and spirituality. From his Baptist and Native American roots to Judaism, from the rural south to the urban northeast, from painting to sculpture and back again, Wardlaw produced series after series of profound artworks on his quest for creative and spiritual resolution.

Raised on a farm in Mississippi during the hard years of the Great Depression, Wardlaw emerged from his meager beginnings to become a member of the avant-garde art scene in New York City during the 1950s and ’60s. He went on to become an important figure in American art and an influential teacher. After serving in World War II, Wardlaw used the GI Bill to attend the Memphis Academy of Arts. He taught and studied art at the University of Mississippi with David Smith, Jack Tworkov, and Reginald Neal; was an Assistant Professor at LSU and SUNY; and was later recruited by Jack Tworkov to teach at Yale before serving as the Chair of the Art Department at the UMASS, Amherst, where he remained for the rest of his academic career.

Beginning with his first solo exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1960, Wardlaw has continued to exhibit widely in galleries and museums, including a solo show at the deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in 1978, and a mid-career retrospective at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and the Memphis College of Art in 1988. His work is in several public and museum collections, including Johnson Wax Headquarters, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, and the Mississippi Museum of Art.

Throughout his career, Wardlaw has devoted his life to making art, driven by his passion and desires rather than responding to popular trends. This freedom of expression has yielded a significant and impressive body of work—one that reveals a unique story, both personal and universal, weaving one man’s perspective into the larger canon of twentieth-century American art.