Johansson Projects presents Running Wild, a solo exhibition of works by Gregory Rick. Developing a historical imagination and fondness for drawing stories, Gregory Rick’s cathartic mark-making process collapses history while confronting personal trauma. His works reflect episodes of individual experience while in dialogue with the wider world, touching deeply on the political nature of oppressive systems. Inspired by a youth fascination with graffiti, Rick’s blatant narratives convey symbolism and cryptic language that capture the recklessness and hysteria of present-day America. He paints on a shaky historical line cemented in humility and conviction, and populates his pictures with “characters who serve as archetypes,” in conjunction with memory and self-exploration.
“Across sprawling canvases roiling with scenes of violence, hardship, protest, and love, Rick paints history in the making with a captivating urgency. Using the visual language of sign painting, graffiti, and comics, Rick layers imagery from our era and its historical parallels. The resulting works reveal ancient and universal patterns of behavior and, in turn, offer both a warning of what might come and a prompt for individual agency. Rick’s multifaceted paintings, which contain multiple divergent perspectives as well as fantastical and symbolic elements, present a radical alternative to the standard monolithic histories upon which systemic oppression depends.” - SFMoMA
In the new body of work on view in Running Wild, Rick explores the major social and political events and issues of his own lifetime. He addresses inequity and the violence of capitalism, as well as joyful scenes of fatherhood, the industrial prison complex with 1982 (Free Mumia), the historical 1942 World War II battle in El Alamein. He draws on scenes from his own life and community, from his youth in a Minneapolis neighborhood plagued by law enforcement abuses of power to his tour as a combat soldier in Iraq. Working through the lens of his personal experience as both a target and an agent of state-sanctioned violence, Rick investigates questions of everyday inhumanity and personal responsibility.