This exhibition is an intimate journey into the lives of four American self-taught artists: Prophet Royal Robertson, Hawkins Bolden, Judith Scott, and Ike Morgan. Isolated and struggling with the disabilities that life dealt them, these artists discovered a unique and powerful voice through art making. Using the simplest of materials, each has produced work that is sublime and completely their own.
From morning until night, Ike Morgan spends almost every moment creating art. Over the years, he has produced thousands of haunting paintings depicting presidents of the United States, the Mona Lisa, and the Last Supper. While the sources for his imagery are immediately recognizable, Morgan renders familiar conventions into new forms. George Washington’s iconic face becomes a webbed grid of bold paint strokes on top of dense, jagged black outlines that cover an initial ballpoint pen drawing.
In a similar manner, the late Royal Robertson covered every inch of his Baldwin, Louisiana home and yard with hand-made signs and apocalyptic paintings. Visitors of this self-proclaimed prophet were greeted by large, weather-beaten warning signs before entering his home. Once inside, shrines to his ex-wife Adell, both beloved and despised, came into focus amid poster board renderings of future cities, space autos, and detailed calendars chronicling his daily woes. Referencing sources as disparate as the Bible, science fiction magazines, pornography, and cheap tabloid newspapers, Robertson’s work manages to graphically illustrate the daily concerns that occupied his mind, both real and imagined.
Also now deceased, both Hawkins Bolden and Judith Scott had no concept of themselves as artists. When asked if he was making art, Bolden referred to his scarecrows as functional objects meant to keep birds away. But pieced together with objects destined for the trash, they are otherworldly and ominous. With Scott, viewers will never know exactly why she created her intricate art works. Guesses can only be made at the motivations behind her wrapped creations that conceal objects which were stolen, only to then be hidden forever beneath layers of twisted yarn and string.
This exhibition is presented in conjunction with the documentary film MAKE, co-directed by UT alumnus Scott Ogden and Malcolm Hearn, which was released in June 2011. The VAC will host a special screening of the documentary followed by a discussion with Ogden, who also curated the exhibition. The film will also play on loop in the gallery throughout the duration of the exhibition to provide a richer context for the art works on display.
MAKE is sponsored by Michael Ray Charles in conjunction with his fall courses in the Painting area of the Studio Art division in the Department of Art and Art History.
Generous support for MAKE comes from Christine Mattsson and John McHale.
Curated by alumnus Scott Ogden and sponsored by Michael Ray Charles, Professor in Studio Art in the Department of Art and Art History.
About the Curators
Scott Ogden was born in Oklahoma City, raised in Texas, and now lives and works in Brooklyn. He received a BFA in Studio Art from The University of Texas in Austin in 1997, attended the Skowhegan Artist Residency program in Maine, and received his MFA at Queens College in New York. The documentary MAKE is his directorial debut, and after almost ten years of shooting and editing, the film was released by Asthmatic Kitty Records in June 2011. MAKE chronicles the lives and art of Prophet Royal Robertson, Hawkins Bolden, Judith Scott, and Ike Morgan, four influential and complicated Outsider artists. Recently, Ogden founded a skateboard company that treats deck graphics as works of art and incorporates imagery from both self-taught and contemporary artists. In summer 2011, a pop-up shop of his skateboards opened at I-20 Gallery and Ogden’s drawings were the subject of a solo exhibition at Ricco Maresca Gallery in New York.
Michael Ray Charles was born in 1967 in Lafayette, Louisiana and graduated from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana in 1989. In college, he studied advertising design and illustration, eventually moving into painting, his preferred medium. Charles received an MFA degree from the University of Houston in 1993 and began teaching at The University of Texas at Austin upon graduation, where he is currently a Professor in Studio Art. His graphically styled paintings investigate racial stereotypes drawn from a history of American advertising, product packaging, billboards, radio jingles, and television commercials. Charles draws comparisons between Sambo, Mammy, and minstrel images of an earlier era and contemporary mass-media portrayals of black youth, celebrities, and athletes—images he sees as a constant in the American subconscious.