Ackland Art Museum organizes first Ronald Lockett retrospective

herman_fever book jacketWEBThe Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has organized the groundbreaking retrospective, “Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett,” the first comprehensive exhibition of this passionately inspired and little-understood figure in 20th century American art.

The exhibition, which will be presented in 2016-2017 in New York, Atlanta and Chapel Hill, marks the first time viewers will be able to gain insight into the full range of Lockett’s innovative and evocative paintings and assemblages.

“The Ackland is proud to be organizing this pioneering, highly significant exhibition,” said Chief Curator and Interim Director Peter Nisbet. “The Museum and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in which we are embedded, have become key institutions in the study of and engagement with the art of the American South.”

Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, by the time of his death at 32, Lockett (1965-1998) produced an estimated 400 works of art created from a wide variety of found materials. This first solo exhibition features almost 50 works of Lockett’s art and emphasizes the powerful themes the artist explored over the course of his career.

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 (1928-2016), who mentored and encouraged him.

Through his art, Lockett explored events in 20th century history that he sought to better understand, including acts of large-scale violence and terrorism like the Holocaust, the bombing of Hiroshima and the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. He also grappled with subjects such as racial and political tumult, including the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and the unfulfilled promises of the Civil Rights Movement; environmental degradation; and religious faith. In his final years, following his diagnosis with HIV/AIDS, his art explored mortality, salvation and remembrance.

“Fever Within” is curated by Bernard L. Herman, UNC-Chapel Hill’s George B. Tindall Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies and Folklore, in close collaboration with the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, an organization dedicated to documenting, researching, preserving and exhibiting the work of vernacular African American artists of the American South.

The exhibition will be featured at the American Folk Art Museum in New York (June 21 – Sept. 18, 2016) and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta (Oct. 9, 2016 – Jan. 8, 2017). The tour will culminate at the Ackland Art Museum (Jan. 27 – April 9, 2017).

It will be accompanied by a 160-page book, edited by Bernard L. Herman and published by the University of North Carolina Press. It includes 60 full-color plates of Lockett’s paintings and assemblages, as well as written contributions by Paul Arnett, Bernard L. Herman, Sharon Patricia Holland, Katherine L. Jentleson, Thomas J. Lax and Colin Rhodes.

“Building on the Ackland’s important acquisitions and exhibition projects such as“Thornton Dial: Thoughts on Paper” (2010, travelled to Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont, Burlington; Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama; and the Knoxville Museum of Art, Tennessee), we look forward to stimulating a rich and multifaceted conversation about Ronald Lockett’s powerful and moving art,” said Nisbet. “We could not be more grateful to our guest curator, noted scholar Bernard L. Herman, to our lenders, and to our colleagues at the distinguished institutions in New York and Atlanta who will ensure a broad and diverse audience for the show.”

The Ackland’s exhibition “Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett”is made possible in part by awards from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding was provided by the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of American Studies Chair’s Discretionary Fund for Southern Studies.

More information on the exhibition available at: