• A painting by Ronald Lockett titled Rebirth, dated c. 1989.

    Ronald Lockett

    Rebirth, c. 1989

    Enamel with Splash Zone on wood panel

    48 1/2 x 97 x 2 inches

  • A painting by Ronald Lockett titled England's Rose, dated 1997.

    Ronald Lockett

    England's Rose, 1997

    Enamel on metal, wood panel

    48 x 48 x 2 inches

  • A painting of a figure in a white landscape with birds by Ronald Lockett, titled Hiding Places, dated c. 1990.

    Ronald Lockett

    Traps, 1994

    Enamel, barbed wire, metal on metal sheeting

    56 1/2 x 49 1/2 x 11 inches

  • An untitled painting of a buck in a trap by Ronald Lockett, dated 1989.

    Ronald Lockett

    Untitled (Trap Painting), 1989

    Wood, cloth, net, tin, industrial sealing compound, oil, enamel on wood

    24 3/4 x 48 inches

  • An untitled painting by Ronald Lockett known as "Rebirth," dated circa 1989.

    Ronald Lockett

    Untitled (Rebirth), c. 1989

    Enamel on wood

    24 x 52 inches

  • Circa 1989

    Installation View

    Photo by Cary Whittier

  • Rebirth by Ronald Lockett, outside the artist’s studio, c. 1989.

    Photo by William Arnett.

  • An untitled painting by Ronald Lockett dated 1988.

    Ronald Lockett

    Untitled, 1988

    Enamel on wood

    24 x 23 inches

  • A painting of a figure on horseback fighting a lion, by Ronald Lockett dated 1989.

    Ronald Lockett

    Untitled, 1989

    Enamel and metal on wood

    36 x 60 inches

  • Untitled work by Ronald Lockett, outside the artist’s studio, c. 1989.

    Photo by William Arnett.

  • An untitled painting by Ronald Lockett dated circa 1988.

    Ronald Lockett

    Untitled, c. 1988

    Enamel and tin on wood

    48 x 48 inches

  • History Refused to Die

    Installation View

    Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

  • Ronald Lockett with Lonnie Holley, c. 1989.

    Photo by William Arnett.

  • A painting of two deer by Ronald Lockett titled Traps, dated c. 1990.

    Ronald Lockett

    Traps, c. 1990

    Oil, enamel, metal, plastic fencing, branches on wood

    48 x 71 1/2 x 1/2 inches

Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die: The Studio Education of the Junk House

Ronald Lockett

April 13 -May 28, 2023

Circa 1989

February 9 -April 2, 2022

Selected Solo Exhibitions

Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett
Ackland Art Museum
2017

Ronald Lockett
Sargent’s Daughters
2016

Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett
American Folk Art Museum
2016

Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett
High Museum of Art
2016

Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die
American Folk Art Museum
2016

Selected Group Exhibitions

Souls Grown Deep like the Rivers: Black Artists from the American South
Royal Academy of Art
2023

Called to Create: Black Artists of the American South
National Gallery of Art
2022

Living Legacies: Art of the African American South
Toledo Museum of Art
2022

On the Nature of Things
Andrew Kreps Gallery
2022

In the Presence of Our Ancestors: Southern Perspectives in African American Art
Minneapolis Institute of Art
2021

What I Know: Gifts from Gordon W. Bailey
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
2021

In Dialogue: Artists, Mentors, Friends: Ronald Lockett and Thornton Dial Sr.,
Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia
2021

Living Legacies: Art of the African American South
New Media Gallery, Toledo Museum of Art
2021

We Will Walk: Art and Resistance in the American South
Turner Contemporary
2020

Cosmologies from the Tree of Life: Art from the African American South
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
2019

Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South
Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art
2019

A Different Mountain: Selected Works from the Arnett Collection
Marlborough
2019

Altered After
Participant
2019

Ear to the Ground: Earth and Element in Contemporary Art
New Orleans Museum of Art
2018

History Refused to Die: Highlights from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Gift
Metropolitan Museum of Art
2018

Revelations: Art from the African American South
De Young Museum
2018

To Pass Through and Be Gone
Hammonds House
2016

Tree of Life
American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore
1995

Ronald Lockett’s (b. 1965, Bessemer, Alabama; d.1998, Bessemer, Alabama) body of work is defined by cycles of rebirth. Though Lockett only lived to be thirty-three, his short career yielded a distinct visual language, imbued with symbols of majesty and masculinity, pop culture and found materials reflective of his immediate surroundings. Though Lockett had the opportunity to attend the Atlanta College of Art, he chose to apprentice himself to great American artist Thornton Dial, his uncle by marriage. Dial, who continues to be celebrated for his eloquent meditation on history, experience, and materiality, guided the development of his nephew’s visual language and perspective.

While his mentor had decades of life experience, Lockett found himself struck by the absurdity of a seemingly post-disaster world. He sought to understand reality through the failures and tragedies of history, depicting specific events such as the Holocaust, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the crimes of the Ku Klux Klan, and the bombing of Hiroshima. Many works employ the archetype of the buck, employing themes of masculinity and freedom. Animals shift between quivering life and skeletal decay, trapped within frames or leaping out from metal fences; abstracted metal collage creates impenetrable walls, often adorned with flowers or figures but inescapable nonetheless. A paradoxical utopian vision is innate to these scenes, glimpses of release or redemption emerging through the darkness: primeval creatures rest in awesome landscapes, diptychs evoke a baptismal effect. Lockett’s work reckons with injustice and doom, simultaneously serving as vessels for resurrection.

Themes of unavoidable, impending death became intrinsic to Lockett’s work after his diagnosis with HIV in 1994. Masterworks like Fever Within, the rusting, metal ode to a deceased friend, and English Rose, a memorial to Princess Diana, were born from this period. Art historian Paul Arnett wrote, “As an artist, Ronald was finally reborn through his resignation to a permanent exile from communal memories. Fed a diet of historical junk food, he swallowed it and somehow thrived, wringing something individual and raw and wounded and alive from those romantic stereotypes and half-real reminiscences. His art began in despair and ended in tragedy, yet in the meantime, it explored areas that neither vernacular nor mainstream contemporary arts proper have, as a rule, been able to reach on their own.” Lockett died from AIDS-related complications in 1998.

In 2016, a significant solo exhibition of Lockett’s work was presented by the American Folk Art Museum, accompanied by a monograph, Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett. He has exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY), the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA), the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Richmond, VA), the New Orleans Museum of Art (New Orleans, LA), the American Folk Art Museum (New York, NY) and the American Visionary Art Museum (Baltimore, MD), among others. His work resides in various public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY), the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA), Minneapolis Museum of Art (Minneapolis, MN), the American Folk Art Museum (New York, NY), and the Gadsen Arts Center (Quincy, FL).

Download full CV

Raw Vision
Autumn 2023
Ronald Lockett: Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die: The Studio Education of the Junk House
By Paul Laster

Artsy
June 14, 2023
5 Collectors Championing LGBTQ+ Artists
By Osman Can Yerebakan

Burnaway
May 24, 2023
Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die: The Studio Education of the Junk House by Ronald Lockett at MARCH, New York
By Justin Chance

Artforum
April 2023
Must See: Ronald Lockett: Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die: The Studio Education of the Junk House
By Artforum Editors

Financial Times
March 23, 2023
Souls Grown Deep Like the Rivers, Royal Academy, London – revelatory art from the Deep South
By Maya Jaggi

Time Out
March 14, 2023
‘Souls Grown Deep Like the Rivers: Black Artists from the American South’
By Eddy Frankel

Evening Standard
March 14, 2023
Souls Grown Deep Like the Rivers at the Royal Academy review: an essential show
By Ben Luke

The Guardian
March 14, 2023
Souls Grown Deep Like the Rivers review – art of poverty and resilience from the US south
By Ashish Ghadiali

Christie’s
December 11, 2022
The inside track on Outsider Art – the artists to know
By Cara Zimmerman

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
July 3, 2018
Ronald Lockett’s The Enemy Amongst Us and the Artistic Lineage of Bessemer, Alabama
By Aleesa Alexander

Art in America
October 24, 2016
Ronald Lockett
By David Ebony

Atlanta Magazine
October 6, 2016
At the High Museum’s Ronald Lockett exhibition, outsider art has insider status
By Feifei Sun 

Hyperallergic
September 13, 2016
Choosing Between a Folk Artist’s Story and His Work
By Seph Rodney

SFAQ / NYAQ / AQ
July 18, 2016
Eschatology, Archeology and Materiality: Ronald Lockett at the American Folk Art Museum
By Seph Rodney

ARTnews
July 5, 2016
Ronald Lockett at the American Folk Art Museum and Sargent’s Daughters, New York
By ARTnews Editors

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