New York City, NY
Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die takes its title from a large-scale assemblage created by African American self-taught artist Ronald Lockett (1965–1998) in 1996, two years before he died of AIDS-related pneumonia. On the rusted-tin surface of the artwork emerges the silhouette of a stag—a depiction of Lockett’s avatar, which he used repeatedly in his art. Like many other works in his oeuvre, the piece reflects the artist’s reckoning with his own mortality and endurance in the face of brutal entrapment.
In the exhibition, ten of Lockett’s artworks — representing different phases of his career — are paired with more than eighty small and portable works made by both known and unidentified artists from various eras and geographical regions, all of whom are situated outside the art mainstream. It includes 18th- and 19th-century Native American effigies, Brazilian wood ex-votos, sculptures by Sandra Sheehy (b. 1965), and drawings by Melvin Way (b. 1954).
Each production relates to the most pervasive and essential themes in Lockett’s art: mortality, eschatology, and vulnerability. Produced for their protective qualities and invested with powers, the creations played a role in daily rituals. They allude to recurring human conditions—fear, loss, illness, and survival—and mark transitions between, and connections with, the ongoing cycles of life.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website