Rick Lowe’s extensive body of work in painting, drawing, and installation is paired with numerous collaborative projects, undertaken in the spirit and tradition of “social sculpture.” Working closely with individuals and communities, Lowe has identified myriad ways to exercise creativity in the context of everyday activities, harnessing it to explore concerns around equity and justice. Through such undertakings as Black Wall Street Journey (2018–), a multifaceted citywide project for which he installed an information ticker in a neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, and Greenwood Art Project (2018–21), where he worked with local artists and others in Alabama to raise awareness of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Lowe has developed a highly flexible practice centered on nurturing relationships and catalyzing change.
Now based in Houston, Lowe was born in Russell County in rural Alabama. Among his earliest works are figurative “anti-paintings” derived from the aesthetics and functionality of protest signage. Engaging with issues such as police brutality, homelessness, poverty, and war, among others, these works were produced in collaboration with social justice groups and gatherings including community centers, protest rallies, and conferences.
This work led Lowe to explore further the constructs that underlie political and social systems. Influenced by Joseph Beuys’s concept of social sculpture, he became interested in developing projects aimed at the transformation of civic structures and sites. To this end, in 1993 he cofounded Project Row Houses in Houston’s Third Ward, a historically significant and culturally charged African American neighborhood. Conceived in collaboration with artists James Bettison (1958–1997), Bert Long, Jr. (1940–2013), Jesse Lott, Floyd Newsum, Bert Samples, and George Smith—as well as with neighbors and other creative thinkers, Project Row Houses transformed a small area of derelict shotgun houses into a vibrant cultural district. To this day, the project continues to unite groups and pool resources, manifesting sustainable opportunities for artists, young mothers, small businesses, and local residents.
Lowe’s work in Houston inspired him to initiate and participate in other community enterprises throughout the United States and abroad, including the artist-driven redevelopment organization Watts House Project in Los Angeles (1996–2012); a collaboration with British architect David Adjaye on a project for the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park (2005); and the production of Trans.lation: Vickery Meadow, a group of six pop-up community markets, for the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas (2013). Among his ongoing initiatives are the Victoria Square Project (2016–), in the Victoria Square neighborhood of Athens, produced in collaboration with Maria Papadimitriou in the context of Documenta 14. By establishing spaces of cross-cultural dialogue, Lowe and Papadimitriou have helped make connections between immigrants, refugees, and locals possible in a community marked by xenophobic tensions following the onset of the refugee crisis in Greece.
Having used dominoes to engage directly and playfully with residents of the Third Ward during the development of Project Row Houses, Lowe developed a visual language based on aerial photographs of the game that reveal its resemblance to maps of urban districts. By tracing and layering the patterns he discovers, he continues to produce paintings and drawings that, while visually abstract, represent the reconfiguration and movement of communities over time. These works offer, in Lowe’s words, “an opportunity to think about the issues of equity and urban planning in a more conceptual way.”
In addition to his work in public and community spaces, Lowe has exhibited in institutions worldwide including the Phoenix Art Museum; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York. In 2013, President Barack Obama appointed him to the National Council on the Arts, and in 2014 he was named a MacArthur Fellow. Lowe has served as a Distinguished Visitor at the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University, California; Mel King Community Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Community Innovators Lab (MIT CoLab), Cambridge; and Loeb Fellow at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He joined the University of Houston as a tenured professor of interdisciplinary practice in 2016.
Thursday, December 9, 2021
I Put a Spell on You
As part of Sessions, a new spin-off of Gagosian Premieres, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Alice Smith delivers an unforgettable interpretation of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic “I Put a Spell on You” (1956) inside the exhibition Social Works II at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London. Hawkins’s song was famously covered by Nina Simone in 1965 and has since been performed and recorded by many other artists, from Bette Midler to Marilyn Manson. In 2015, Smith’s haunting rendition was featured on the album Nina Revisited... A Tribute to Nina Simone.
Meditations on Social Sculpture
September 8–October 22, 2022
541 West 24th Street, New York
David Adjaye, Rick Lowe, and Thelma Golden
Rick Lowe and Sir David Adjaye join Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, for a conversation on the occasion of the exhibition Social Works at Gagosian, New York. The trio explore Adjaye and Lowe’s shared interests in architecture, community building, and the relationship between space and the Black body.
Behind the Art
Rick Lowe: In the Studio
Join Rick Lowe in his Houston studio as he speaks about his recent paintings, describing their connections to his long engagement with the activity of dominoes and to his community-based projects created in the tradition of social sculpture.
Social Works: Rick Lowe and Walter Hood
Rick Lowe and Walter Hood speak about Black space, the built environment, and history as a footing for moving forward as part of “Social Works,” a supplement guest edited by Antwaun Sargent for the Summer 2021 issue of the Quarterly.
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2021
The Summer 2021 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Carrie Mae Weems’s The Louvre (2006) on its cover.
Rick Lowe, Tom Finkelpearl, Eugenie Tsai
Thursday, September 29, 2022, 6pm
Gagosian, 541 West 24th Street, New York
Join Gagosian for a conversation between Rick Lowe and his longtime friends Tom Finkelpearl, author and former commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and Eugenie Tsai, senior curator of contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum, New York, inside Lowe’s exhibition Meditations on Social Sculpture, at Gagosian, 541 West 24th Street, New York. The trio will discuss how Lowe’s new paintings evolve from his ongoing community projects, moving beyond the conventions of visual practice, as well as their shared interest in transforming social structures and policies to effect change. The event has reached capacity.
Left: Rick Lowe. Photo: Brent Reaney. Middle: Tom Finkelpearl. Right: Eugenie Tsai
Art Basel 2022
June 16–19, 2022, hall 2, booth B15
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel 2022 with modern and contemporary works by gallery artists, as well as special entries in the Unlimited section of the fair.
Gagosian’s booth in the main section of the fair represents the full breadth and depth of the gallery’s programming through work by many of its represented artists. On view are new works by Mark Grotjahn, Rudolf Stingel, and Jonas Wood; works by newly represented artists including Ashley Bickerton, Rick Lowe, and Jordan Wolfson; and works by Theaster Gates and Brice Marden, both of whom are also exhibiting at other venues in Basel—Gagosian’s gallery at Rheinsprung 1 and Kunstmuseum Basel, respectively—during the fair.
Gagosian’s booth at Art Basel 2022. Artwork, left to right: © Brice Marden/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; © Succession Picasso 2022; © John Currin; © Jonas Wood; © Mark Tansey; © 2022 Judd Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; © Ellsworth Kelly Foundation. Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano
Art Basel Hong Kong 2022
May 27–29, 2022, booth 1C15
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel Hong Kong 2022 with an ensemble of contemporary works by international artists. The gallery’s presentation will feature works by artists including Georg Baselitz, Louise Bonnet, Edmund de Waal, Urs Fischer, Katharina Grosse, Mark Grotjahn, Jennifer Guidi, Simon Hantaï, Hao Liang, Damien Hirst, Thomas Houseago, Tetsuya Ishida, Alex Israel, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Rick Lowe, Takashi Murakami, Albert Oehlen, Nam June Paik, Giuseppe Penone, Rudolf Polanszky, Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, Jenny Saville, Jim Shaw, Rudolf Stingel, Spencer Sweeney, Rachel Whiteread, and Zeng Fanzhi.
Gagosian’s booth at Art Basel Hong Kong 2022. Artwork, left to right: © Georg Baselitz; © Louise Bonnet; © Zeng Fanzhi; © 2019 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved; © Rudolf Stingel. Photo: Martin Wong
Rick Lowe in
Urban Impressions: Experiencing the Global Contemporary Metropolis
Through December 17, 2022
Moody Center for the Arts, Rice University, Houston
Urban Impressions considers the complexities of the modern metropole through a broad and diverse selection of artists from around the globe. Starting with the question “What makes the metropolis?” the exhibition examines our sensorial and physical engagement with urban landscapes and the experiential impact of the built environment. Ranging from sculpture and painting to video and installation, the works on view question defining features of a city—from population density to sensory overload—and thus foreground the central role that the arts and humanities play in the critical conversation about how urban centers affect the mind and bodies of its inhabitants. Work by Rick Lowe is included.
Rick Lowe, Project Row Houses: Hindsight, 2022 (detail) © Rick Lowe Studio
Rick Lowe in
Through July 30, 2023
Ruby City, San Antonio
Tangible/Nothing presents a new installation from Ruby City’s permanent collection galleries and features approximately forty works by national and international artists, including those with ties to San Antonio and to Texas. The exhibition explores how the invisible or the seemingly mundane can reveal greater meaning, and it aims to tap into our collective experience of absence and presence over the past two years, when the physical separation from family and friends necessitated finding all manner of ways to connect with them in absentia. Work by Rick Lowe is included.
Rick Lowe, Untitled, 2021 © Rick Lowe Studio. Photo: Thomas Dubrock
Whitney Biennial 2022
Quiet as It’s Kept
April 6–September 5, 2022
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
The Whitney Biennial was established in 1932 by the museum’s founder, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, to chart developments in art in the United States. The 2022 Biennial features dynamic contributions that take different forms over the course of the exhibition: artworks—even walls—change, and performance animates the galleries and objects. With an intergenerational roster of sixty-three artists and collectives at all points in their careers, many of whom work with an interdisciplinary perspective, the Biennial surveys and presents the art and ideas of our time. Work by Harold Ancart, Ellen Gallagher, and Rick Lowe is included.
Ellen Gallagher, Ecstatic Draught of Fishes, 2022, installation view, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York © Ellen Gallagher
Reflection, Resilience, and Resistance in the Art of Our Time
May 14, 2021–April 10, 2022
Brooklyn Museum, New York
The Slipstream draws examples from Brooklyn Museum’s contemporary art collection to contemplate the profound disruption that occurred in 2020. Borrowing its title from an aeronautical term that refers to the pull of the current that is left in the wake of a large and powerful object, the exhibition examines the placement and displacement of power that runs through American history and continues today. The show features more than sixty works by multiple generations of artists from the 1960s to the present day, including Titus Kaphar, Rick Lowe, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, and Taryn Simon.
Taryn Simon, Press XL, from the series Paperwork and the Will of Capital, 2015, Brooklyn Museum, New York © Taryn Simon