Posts Tagged ‘Goya’

“Known in New Orleans art circles as a sort of ‘Goya of the ghetto,’ Ferdinand has described his work as rap in pictures, while some critics have placed his utterly honest depictions of inner city decay within the social realist tradition of Courbet.” —Times-Picayune


I was on a site that had a few images of some self-taught and outsider artists and saw one of the pieces from Roy Ferdinand.  In a lot of the work from outsiders artists there is often a child-like quality in the work, a feeling of naivete expressed in the rendering and brushwork.  Looking at Ferdinand’s work, there was a definite sophistication and stylization that really differentiated from the typical outsider.  It made me want to know more about this guy and, in my search, I came across the quote above calling him the Goya of the ghetto,  pretty high praise, I was really intrigued. 

Ferdinand was born in 1959 and hedied from a long battle with cancer in 2004 in New Orleans.  Though his work showed more sophistication, he did share much in common with other outsider artists.  Coming from a world of poverty, for example.  He depicted the hard world of the urban streets of New Orleans.  Often, there was implied violence and explicit sexuality in his work, with gangsters, drug dealers and junkies, pimps and whores often populating his images.  The pictures were gritty and tough snapshots of his time and place.

And while much of his work dealt with the harsher elements of his life, Ferdinand also painted the everyday gentler side of his world, providing a full view of his New Orleans.  I particularly love this piece, showing an older woman holding a piece of corrugated metal with a rough outsider-ish image painted on it.  I suspect it is her own painting she is holding from the gentle smile of pride on her strong face, which is rendered with tenderness, and the other piece of corrugated metal in the bottom corner with a simlilar painting on it.  Moreover, it’s just a lovely image and moment, far removed from the world he often painted. 

To my eye, his work has real eye appeal.  The colors work well together and there is a real harmony in the images as a whole.  The drama of many of his scenes only serves to make these images more compelling and probably will make them grow in stature through the years.  It would have been interesting to see what Roy Ferdinand would have painted in the aftermath of Katrina.  It would have been epic work for an artist so tied to the streets of New Orleans.  It’s a shame such a distinct and powerful voice wasn’t around to document it.

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The FearA few days back I talked briefly about a series of pieces from 2006 called Outlaws, small and dark figurative paintings of individuals sometimes looking out windows, sometimes holding handguns.  They were a departure and some followers of my work were a bit put off.  Some were fearful of the figures, seeing them as menacing.  Most saw the fear in these characters, their past haunting them.

There was an observation I made concerning people’s reactions.  Those who were disturbed by the images saw the central figure as an intruder peering in through the window.  Those who were more empathetic with these figures saw them looking out the window.  They saw that these characters were the fearful ones.

These pieces were inspired by some silent films I was watching at the time.  These films from around 1918-1927 were made in the aftermath of the first World War, a time when expressionism emerged.  Many of these films were dark and gritty, filled with raw emotion and violence.  When two figures fought, it was not the clean, one-punch knockouts of later films.  They grappled, clawing at one another in a horrible realism.  One that stands out is  Sunrise  from the great F.W. Murnau, probably best known for his vampire classic,  Nosferatu.  It is the story of a married farmer seduced by a city woman who conspires to kill his wife and go to the city.  It’s a great story that is dark and full of wonderful imagery.  There is a train ride into the city that is a great piece of film.  Though most people think that Wings won the first Oscar for best picure, Sunrise won the award that year as Most Unique and Artistic Production, a short lived award that basically  split the Best Movie award into two parts.  It was great then and is still quite moving.Confession

Also, around that time I saw a group of Goya’s small pieces at the Frick in NYC.  They were done by covering  ivory palates with carbon and dripping water on to the surface then manipulating the puddle until an image emerges.  I was taken by them, mainly because I fully understood the technique.  It was how I had taught myself to paint.  I saw it as an opportunity to express the faces and figures that have inhabited my mind for decades.

I only do a few of these a year now and the handful I have in the studio are what I consider personal treasures that still provoke thought from me, time and time again.Night and the City

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