Jerry Saltz at New York Magazine:
The art of Bill Traylor comes to us with the ghosts of slave ships, lynchings, chain gangs, Jim Crow, justice denied — an American night-story without end. Born in Alabama in 1853, Traylor was 9 years old when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and 12 when slavery was abolished with the 13th Amendment. He bore his owner’s name for life and resided for 55 years near the plantation where he was born; then he moved to nearby Montgomery County, where he remained until his death in 1949. In 1927 or 1928, he moved alone to the city of Montgomery, and in 1929, his son was killed by police. Ten years later, when Traylor was 85 and essentially homeless, he began to draw and paint on the streets of Montgomery, and a massive arc of art as powerful and profound as any in the 20th century shot out of him. His drawings and paintings in ink, pencil, and gouache were made on found cardboard, candy-box tops, and other odds and ends. Today, only four years of his output remain, yet we have about 1,200 works.