Currently at the University of Florida’s Contemporary Art Museum is Rico Gatson: Visible Time. The exhibition includes a collection of the artist’s paintings and works on paper, video works from 2001-present, and a life size mural of author Zora Neale Hurston.
From the museum’s website about the exhibition-
For more than two decades, Brooklyn-based artist Rico Gatson has been celebrated for his vibrant, colorful, and layered artworks. Inspired by significant moments in African American history, identity politics and spirituality, his oeuvre includes images of protests and longstanding injustices—touching on subjects like the murder of Emmett Till, the Watts Riots, and the formation of the Black Panthers—as well as dynamic abstract geometries that celebrate Pan-Africanist aesthetics and Black cultural and political figures.
About the mural, Zora III, commissioned by the museum (pictured above)-
Zora Neale Hurston was an American author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. She portrayed racial struggles in the early-1900s American South and published research on hoodoo (a set of spiritual practices, traditions, and beliefs created by enslaved Africans in the Southern U.S.). The most popular of her four novels is Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937. Born in Notasulga, Alabama, Hurston grew up near Orlando, in Eatonville, Florida, incorporated in 1887 as one of the first self-governing all-black municipalities in the country. Despite her landmark achievements, Hurston died penniless and in obscurity in 1960-her novels and other writings largely unknown, until they were single-handedly rescued by novelist Alice Walker in 1975. Through his wall painting Rico Gatson extends the monumental impact of Hurston’s legacy-and Walker’s- into a visual arena reminiscent of the Mexican Muralists and hand-painted cinema signs.
“Untitled (Seven Panels)”, 2022 acrylic paint on wood, in seven parts
From the museum’s wall plaque about the above paintings-
According to catalog contributor Mark Fredricks, Rico Gatson’s “panel paintings” resemble “a musical framework.” Arranged together along a single wall, the “rhythm” animating their colorful compositions and their “uniformity of structure” suggest, anthropomorphically speaking, musicians in a jazz combo. One of the many ways in which Gatson draws on music as a lasting influence in his art, his seven panels approximate what legendary jazz player Albert Ayler described as “the healing force of the universe,” but in three dimensions.
“Don” 2022, Color pencil and photo-collage on paper
“Sidney” 2022, Color pencil and photo-collage on paper
“Miles #2″ 2022, Color pencil and photo-collage on paper
Below are images are from Four Stations, one of the five moving image works in the exhibition. For this work, Gatson traveled to Money, Mississippi and took handheld footage along the trail of places and events that led to the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till.
“Four Stations” 2017
On one of the smaller screens is Gun Play, 2001, a film collage that mixes sequences from Foxy Brown and The Good, the Band and the Ugly, combining them together with kaleidoscopic effects.
“Gun Play”, 2001, single-channel video, color, sound
This Thursday 7/27/23, the museum will be showing Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, the last of the three films chosen by Gatson to accompany the exhibition.
The exhibition will close on Saturday, 7/29.