Please join us at the Center for a discussion with Bernie Herman, who will share his comments on the art of Ronald Lockett, titled “Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die.” Lunch will be provided.
Ronald Lockett stands at the center of one of the most provocative and least understood American art movements. Defined neither by manifesto nor patronage or institution, Lockett’s art emanates from a cohesive, coherent movement united by creative practice and critical conversation articulated through the art itself. Words fail this movement, and historically words have limited and even endangered its presence and progress in contemporary artworlds. The creative practice that connects the art and artists of this movement takes shape in the appropriation and manipulation of “found”–often discarded or surplus–materials; its critical conversations unfold in deeply coded works produced in the long histories of struggle against systematic racial, economic, political, and institutional discrimination.
It is an art that has achieved its greatest, most intense florescence in the heart of the historically oppressive landscapes of the American South, but appears everywhere in the flows of the larger Southern diaspora of the twentieth century. The art of Ronald Lockett, largely unrecognized in conversations of the Contemporary, epitomizes what might be recognized as the Birmingham-Bessemer Movement in the visual and performing arts. In a movement manifest in a broader artistic practice, Lockett is joined by Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Joe Minter, Mary Lee Bendolph, and others who make objects that range from monumental sculptures to patchwork quilts. Lockett’s art, too often marginalized through the language of folk, self-taught, and vernacular, transcends limiting artworld ideologies, speaking with affective and instructive power to themes of everyday life, spiritual concern, and the sweep of historical events.
Bernie Herman is the George B. Tindall Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Folklore at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, where he also serves on the Art History faculty. His books include Thornton Dial: Thoughts on Paper (2011), Town House: Architecture and Material Life in the Early American City, 1780-1830 (2005) and The Stolen House (1992). In 2011 he held a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for a collection of essays, Troublesome Things in the Borderlands of Contemporary Art. His blog, Meditations on the Worlds of Things, reflects on ways of thinking about the textures of everyday life.