Rico Gatson is a multimedia artist whose works engage a range of themes, including 20th-century African-American history, the complexities of race and identity, entertainment and spirituality. Drawing from contemporary iconography, geometric abstraction, minimalist sculpture and the iconic designs of Emory Douglas, Gatson’s visual strategies lie at the intersection of art and social justice.
Gatson’s Panel Paintings incorporate minimalist geometry, textiles and patterning in a color palette associated with African nationalism. Resting on the floor and leaning against the wall, Gatson’s panel paintings bear a totemic presence existing between two worlds, blurring the boundaries between painting and sculpture. In his works on paper, Gatson presents activists and entertainers as glamorous rock stars, embellished with rhythmic rays of color and light that amplify the power of his subjects.
Included in Jameco Exchange are two portraits of figures with a rich history in Jamaica, Queens. Trane #2 features legendary jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane, one of many jazz musicians who performed and lived in southeast Queens. Originally from North Carolina, Coltrane performed in Jamaica and lived in St. Albans, a neighborhood once home to jazz legends Count Basie, Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald and many more. Double Amiri honors Amiri Baraka, an African-American writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays and music criticism. Baraka often spoke at the legendary Afrikan Poetry Theatre, a community-based cultural institution located nearby at 176th St and Jamaica Avenue, and was close friends with the Theater’s co-founder: Baba John Watusi Branch.