Rico Gatson is a contemporary American interdisciplinary artist with a politically and conceptually driven practice. The New York-based artist creates often confrontational works that combine colourful abstract fractal patterns with references to African American culture and history.Read More
Graduating from Yale School of Art, New Haven, in 1991, Gatson's work in the past three decades has spanned painting, prints, sculpture, video, and installation. Stylistically, he draws upon a range of art historical movements, including Bauhaus and Op art, as well as traditional African textile patterns.
Across all formats, Rico Gatson incorporates fractal patterns and geometric grids comprised of complementary colours and interspersed with silhouettes. In various video works, for example, moving kaleidoscopic patterns and dynamic soundtracks are created by layering excerpts from popular films and television shows.
Gatson uses his striking abstract visual elements to enhance appropriated imagery from black history and popular culture. His subjects, drawn from photographs and film, include black heroes such as Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, Billie Holiday, and Miles Davis. Looking beyond just individuals, his work also represents significant moments in black history, including the Watts Riots, the rise of the Black Panthers, and Barack Obama's election to president.
Rico Gatson has said that he's 'always interested in seducing the viewer and then hitting them on the way out, allowing a delayed response to powerfully charged content.' Often politically motivated, he confronts viewers with uncomfortable realities. For the 2006 solo exhibition African Fractals at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York, the artist created works that evoked traditional African folk patterns while containing racist symbols such as swastikas and confederate flags.
Gatson's work has attracted several public art commissions. His 2019 MTA commission adorned a New York subway station with radiating mosaic portraits of figures who have been influential in the Bronx community. Gatson has exhibited in galleries across the United States, and major public institutions like The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; and Minneapolis Institute of Art have collected Gatson works.
Rico Gatson: 2007–2017, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2017); Three Trips around the Block, Exit Art, New York (2011); Rico Gatson, MCAD Gallery, Minneapolis (2008); Masking: Rico Gatson (Kindred), Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (2001); Fire, Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York (2000).
New Symphony of Time, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson (2019); Art + Activism: Drawing the Line, Children's Museum of the Arts, New York (2018); Jazz and Love, La Vieille Charité, Marseille (2018); 1967: Parallels in Black Art and Rebellion, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit (2017); New, New York, Essl Museum, Vienna (2012); FREESTYLE, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2001); Current Undercurrent, Brooklyn Museum, New York (1997).
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2020