(above) – Ronald Lockett (American, 1965-1998), Traps (Golden Bird), 1990, metal fence, branches, cut tin, industrial sealing compound and found plastic bird and berries. Collection of William S. Arnett. Photograph by Stephen Pitken/Pitken Studio.
THE HIGH’S LOOK BACK AT RONALD LOCKETT
Katherine Jentleson first met the art of Ronald Lockett in graduate school, when she worked on the scholarly publication, “Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett (1965-1998).” “I’m thrilled that his work is coming to the High Museum of Art,” says Jentleson, the museum’s Merrie and Dan Boone curator of folk and self-taught art. The exhibit opens October 9 and runs through January 8, 2017.
“This show is a perfect fit for our commitment to strongly represent African American and self-taught Southern artists, and it is his first retrospective and major solo show,” she says. “His talent and vision burned so brightly only to disappear long before his time.”
Born in Bessemer, Alabama, Lockett grew up influenced by his cousin, and better-known artist, Thornton Dial. “His training wasn’t academic or traditional, yet Lockett was surrounded by other artists in the Bessemer community who exchanged ideas and techniques,” says Jentleson. Lockett produced an estimated 400 paintings, sculptures and assemblages by his death at 32. His work addressed themes of struggle, survival and injustice, using the context of historical events such as the civil rights movement and the Oklahoma City bombing. After 1993, he worked in cut metal and mixed media to create haunting, more abstract pieces with animal symbolism.
In his series, “Traps,” found metal silhouettes of deer are often enmeshed in chain link fencing to express vulnerability. Jentleson is drawn to “Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die,” with its beautiful metal patinas, rich textures and powerful message. “His body of work is beautiful and bleak, challenging and inspiring, elevated yet down to earth. It is compelling both physically and emotionally. I can’t wait for our viewers to encounter it,” she says. “I know they will connect.”
The High Museum plans to put Lockett’s work in greater context with an auxiliary show of other Bessemer, Alabama, artists.
STORY: Laura Raines