You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

Art review: ‘Fever Within’ a striking testament to power of empathy


Self-taught art reminds us that there is incredible creativity and ingenuity at work even in the smallest, most obscure sliver of rural America. Artist Ronald Lockett, the subject of a wonderful solo exhibition at the High Museum, lived the “folk” art mythos to some degree, making his work in a tiny Bessemer, Ala., neighborhood with the cartoony name of Pipe Shop.

A cousin to celebrated self-taught artist Thornton Dial, Lockett honed his craft under Dial’s watchful eye. Included in the exhibition is Dial’s tribute to his cousin who died of AIDS in 1998, a kind of Edenic garden forged of found materials — carpet and rope and fake flowers — whose centerpiece is a majestic deer, standing in for Lockett.

Lockett also lived by the self-taught artist’s creed that, in his cousin Dial’s words, “having nothing is having everything.” Like Dial, Lockett used what was close at hand: time-weathered wood, chicken wire, nails, sticks and the rusted metal abundant in his steel factory neighborhood. The ultimate gesture of creative reuse, Lockett transformed neglect and waste into a potent language that tackled big issues.

“Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett” is the first solo exhibition of Lockett’s work and a refresher course in the ability of artists outside the hubs of L.A. and New York to alchemize limitations into remarkable, resonant work. But Lockett is also a reminder that self-taught artists created deeply thoughtful, politically engaged art to rival the work of any art-school educated artist.

Placed next to contemporary artists in a group show, his mixed media works in wood, metal, paint and assorted detritus could easily be assumed to be cut from the same cloth. Lockett tackled homelessness, domestic terrorism, racism, genocide but also offered up homages to Princess Diana and his beloved great-aunt, Sarah Dial Lockett, who raised him and whose orbit of quilts and roses Lockett fashions into a moving tribute on view here. There is a quiet and gentleness to Lockett’s work that gets under your skin, a sadness in his depiction of “Homeless People,” black figures radiating halos of white energy like heat waves that you realize is Lockett’s way of showing the divide, the force field that separates them from the world.

Despite limited prospects, Lockett was a visually sophisticated, highly moral and empathetic artist who forged allegories in mixed media works like “Traps,” of racism, persecution and cruelty from scenes of deer waylaid in wire traps and in his deeply affecting odes to a natural world in peril.

The deer, as the show’s exhibition notes, was Lockett’s avatar. It stood in for a sense of hemmed-in helplessness that Lockett perhaps felt in the face of being poor, black and HIV-positive in the rural South. But it also stood as a representative of all creatures, human and animal, trapped, mistreated, trying to make their way in a hostile world. In early works like “Holocaust” (1988) or “Rebirth” (1987) of a hunched, skeletal animal passing against a backdrop of green fields and blue skies into a landscape enshrouded in darkness, Lockett affirms that the world is twofold, and that normalcy and blue skies can coexist with despair.

In an age of bluster, divisiveness and rage, “Fever Within” is a necessary tonic. This powerful, important show is a memorial to the quiet, thoughtful act of creation and the power of empathy.

RELATED: Review: Technology versus nature in photographer Struth’s High exhibit



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

Raunchy ‘CHIPS’ will have you chuckling in spite of yourself
Raunchy ‘CHIPS’ will have you chuckling in spite of yourself

The randy action-comedy “CHiPs” is pitched right to that 18-24 demographic, but that audience is probably wondering what this whole California Highway Patrol movie is about. Two words, teens: Erik Estrada. He was the ultimate late ’70s small-screen sex symbol and people were really into his hair — at least according to what...
Spinoffs: Atlanta versions of HGTV’s “Flip or Flop’ and ‘Black Ink Crew’ coming
Spinoffs: Atlanta versions of HGTV’s “Flip or Flop’ and ‘Black Ink Crew’ coming

This was posted Thursday, March 23, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog TV networks love spinoffs the way movie companies love sequels. Why? Familiarity matters in such a cluttered TV environment. It’s lower risk. That’s why there are four Dick Wolf “Chicago” dramas on NBC and three “NCIS” shows...
If ‘Life’ seems familiar, that’s because it is
If ‘Life’ seems familiar, that’s because it is

Hey, “Life.” 1979 called. It wants its alien-invasion movie back. “Life” so echoes Ridley Scott’s 38-year-old claustrophobic science-fiction classic “Alien,” in which a group of space travelers is under attack from a merciless invasive being, that it can only pale by comparison. But, taken on its own creature-feature...
The Rock and Zac Efron dress up, haul refrigerators in “Baywatch” trailer
The Rock and Zac Efron dress up, haul refrigerators in “Baywatch” trailer

Zac Efron and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson go undercover, hide among the dead, occasionally spar and haul refrigerators in the big-screen adaptation of the “Baywatch” series. The movie is due out May 26. MORE: Check out this photo of Zac mid-air on the “Baywatch” set Why Zac Efron got a new phone for a fan How The Rock...
Life with Gracie: From mother to daughter: Wishing you a love that lasts
Life with Gracie: From mother to daughter: Wishing you a love that lasts

Last Saturday, my daughter Asha married her best friend at Agnes Scott College’s Julia Thompson Smith Chapel, a stunning, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired sanctuary. We’d been planning this moment since December 2015 when Herman Hall Jr. asked Jimmy for her hand in marriage, but I was totally unprepared. I was ready when she headed off to kindergarten...
More Stories