Harper’s is pleased to announce Saved, New York-based artist Ricky Burrows’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. The presentation features recent paintings by Burrows and opens on Thursday, November 16, 6–8pm, with a reception attended by the artist.
Across Saved, Burrows paints figures and motifs prevalent throughout his upbringing in New York City and Connecticut. The protagonists of his work, often based on people he knows or influential artists in his life, tend to embody spiritual yearning. This esoteric questioning is a foundational point of inquiry within the personal life of the Christian-raised artist and throughout the exhibition at large. The paintings that comprise Saved frequently examine the relationship between material hardship and the potential that simmers in immortal religious thought.
Untitled for example, is inspired by the late jazz singer, Nat King Cole. The vibrant work captures the artist as he belts passionately into a microphone—one can almost hear the enchanting force of his voice emanating from the painting. Set within an enigmatic sea of blue and gray, the work like many others in Saved, has a timeless quality to it. With his instinctive approach to color, the artist appears to transcend the material world and instead, invites metaphysical reckoning.
Burrows’s enrapturing palette thus recalls both the human and the surreal. The natural hues of Earth’s atmosphere, like the daylit blue sky or the deep indigo night, are recurrent colors, yet these tones are hyperbolized in such a manner that they exceed those that are organically perceptible. This is the case in Untitled Soccer Player. Here, Burrows illustrates a man who propels a soccer ball into an expanse of blue. The figure’s outstretched arm sinks into the depths of a milky cloud, suggesting a larger-than-life presence that consumes the hypnagogic work.
In other works, Burrows manipulates color to capture extraordinary raw emotion. As viewers, we witness the spellbinding power of affect transpire in works like Lady in the Red Dress and Sunday Morning Cartoons. In the former, a woman vested in a red gown and floral headpiece rests on a black chair. Her disposition is inflected with an air of longing: frowning red lips and sinking hazel eyes meet the onlooker. In the latter, red assumes an even more threatening presence. It drips menacingly from the wound that tarnishes a figure injecting a substance. Both works are engulfed in harrowing melancholia as if portals to troubled psychic spaces.
Saved proposes a composite representation of these liminal spaces. Burrows paints the essence of those who dwell at the fringes of society. As the artist notes, the fringes refer to places with ever-present social marginality: here, communities might be economically disenfranchised or otherwise unable to make ends meet. Burrows understands the spectrum of experiences that comprise this state of precarity as landscapes in their own right—ones that are porous, temperamental, and subject to slip in and out of stability at any given moment.
Ricky Burrows (b. 1995, Brooklyn, NY) is a self-taught artist who lives and works in Brooklyn.