“Roy was a self-made legend, like Andy Warhol. You have to be aware that there is myth and there is fact, but ultimately the line disappears and it’s just the character that remains.”—Way of the Righteous: The Art of Roy Ferdinand, Martina Batan (as told to Alexander Provan and Peter J. Russo), Triple Canopy, New York.
James Fuentes Online is pleased to present a solo exhibition works by Roy Ferdinand.
Described as an outsider artist during his lifetime, Roy Ferdinand (1959-2004) was self-taught, developing his distinct visual language of urban realism over many years. Ferdinand turned to the readily available mediums of ink markers, pencil, and watercolor on poster board to create his highly detailed, complicated works. Aside from periods of travel, the artist lived in New Orleans his entire life. The city and its people form the core subjects of his prolific body of work that in time grew to include some 2000 drawings, many of which are dispersed in museums and private collections across the country. This presentation includes a selection of nearly three dozen works spanning from 1992 onwards.
The flattened, expressive style of Ferdinand’s works, including his characteristic shifts in perspective and proportion, serve as stylistic cues that further imbue the off-kilter nature of the scenarios at hand. These works often describe intensely personal and difficult scenes of violence on sidewalks, back streets, and within the interiors of homes, while others offer seemingly softer portraits of people going about their day. Ferdinand knew many of these figures personally, typically drawing on his own daily encounters and
experiences, although occasionally also rendering fiction from memory. Other works offer self-portraits of the artist in various guises. Others, still, are empty of people, instead describing their presence through absence. Over time Ferdinand’s subject matter came to include carnival celebrations, storefronts and home facades, scenes of faith and spirituality, neighborhood stores and taverns, crime scenes, and the graphic text found across these settings: ONE WAY; DO NOT CROSS; STOP; THOU SHALT
In Ferdinand’s personal scrapbooks we find notes and photographs that describe his time spent with fellow folk and outsider artists, as well as his interactions with the many collectors and gallerists who he came into contact with. Ferdinand was also obsessed his horror films and science fiction, imaginative inflections of which can be found in his works. Ferdinand himself was a “larger-than-life,” and held strong connections with many people over his lifetime. While his body of work represents a singular vision and
historical account of life in the city that surrounded him at the turn of the millennium, his works also stand outside of time and place. A posthumous selection of Ferdinand’s works from private collections were shown as part of Prospect.1, the seminal first iteration of the Prospect New Orleans triennial running 2008-09.