Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett

The art of Ronald Lockett (American, 1965–1998) is both deeply connected to his life in the American South and transcendently resonant with broader human experience. In visually arresting works assembled from found materials, Lockett used a symbolic cast of animal avatars to address themes of struggle, survival, and injustice that are powerfully resonant today. Lockett took on issues such as the unfulfilled promises of the civil rights movement, environmental degradation, the trauma of war, and acts of domestic terrorism in works whose beauty and weight testify to the resilience of the human spirit.

Revealing one of the South’s best-kept secrets, this exhibition is the first retrospective dedicated to Lockett, whose career was cut short when the artist died of AIDS-related pneumonia at the age of thirty-two. Fever Within features more than fifty of Lockett’s paintings, sculptures, and assemblages—including works from the High’s collection—that embody the stunning evolution of his artistic practice.

Raised in Bessemer, Alabama, Lockett was heavily influenced by other self-taught African American artists in his close-knit community, including his cousin Thornton Dial, Sr. (American, 1928–2016), who mentored and encouraged him. Fever Within is accompanied by Forging Connections: Ronald Lockett’s Alabama Contemporaries, a companion exhibition of large-scale sculptures that links Lockett to key artists who emerged from the African American steel communities of Birmingham and Bessemer, Alabama, in the late twentieth century. This exhibition, which is exclusive to the High Museum, includes artworks by Lockett; Thornton Dial, Sr.; Thornton Dial, Jr.; Richard Dial; Lonnie Holley; and Joe Minter, much of which is on view publicly for the first time.

 

*Photo: Sarah Lockett’s Roses, 1997
Tin and paint on wood
Collection of Souls Grown Deep Foundation, L2015.2.22

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