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Thornton Dial, Sr.
Top of the Line (Steel)
1992
enamel, roping, and found metal objects on canvas and plywood
65 x 80 7/8 x 7 7/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift from the collection of Ron and June Shelp



This Alabama steelworker made Top of the Line in response to the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. As he followed the news coverage, Dial was struck by how quickly the demonstration of social outrage degenerated into widespread burning and looting of area businesses. Here, figures grasping at salvaged parts of air conditioners, refrigerators, and automobiles suggest the act of looting. Dial believed it resulted in part from the frustration of people who produce "top of the line" industrial goods but cannot afford to buy them.

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