Ronald Lockett (1965–1998), The Enemy Amongst Us, 1995
Paint, pine straw, metal grate, tin, nails, on wood, 50 x 53 in.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
Despair found meaning through outrage in a series of pieces occasioned by the Oklahoma City bombing of April 1995. Part city skylines and part shantytowns, these pieces shred the myths of the melting pot, the social mosaic, and the American Experiment. The series, which includes Oklahoma, Timothy, April Nineteenth (The Number), Awakening, Conspiracy, and The Enemy Amongst Us, is reminiscent of frayed and tattered improvisational patchwork quilts. Let us remain mindful, as Lockett was, that one of the dark motives for the Oklahoma bombing was white supremacy, that, far from being an act of maniacal desperation, the Oklahoma bombing was an intentional spectacle of terror, as lynchings once were.
Ronald Lockett (1965–1998) was born in the Pipe Shop neighborhood of Bessemer, Alabama, where he lived his whole life. He graduated from high school but never pursued a traditional trade, having known since elementary school that he wanted to be an artist. Although he toyed with the idea of going to art school, he was dissuaded by his older cousin and neighbor, the artist Thornton Dial, who advised that he "had the best school of all just making artwork." Indeed, Lockett enjoyed an invaluable art education under the close mentorship of Dial, who allowed him to watch his process and offered him endless support.
Over the course of his decade-long career, Lockett produced hundreds of works of art that grappled with the horrors of the twentieth century, such as the Holocaust and Hiroshima, as well as personal matters, notably his great-aunt Sarah Dial Lockett’s death. Global and personal tragedy ultimately converged with his own diagnosis of HIV, and he died from AIDS-related pneumonia at the age of 32.
Ronald Lockett’s work is in the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Art, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, among others.
Learn more about Ronald Lockett here.
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