Donald Locke: Chronology
Born in Stewartville, Demerara County, Guyana, South America. Second son of carpenter Donald Locke and primary school teacher Ivy Mae (nee Harper). Locke, Sr., among the top furniture makers on the western Atlantic coast, later sought gold as a pork-knocker – a term coined from prospectors’ staple food-and earned the legendary moniker Dunnamite Dan for his great axe-wielding skill in building a float to save his crew following a shipwreck.
Family moves to Georgetown, Guyana. Attends Bourda Roman Catholic School and Smith’s Church Congregational School.
Achieves qualifying level at primary school, passes scholarship exam and receives partial scholarship to Progressive High School. Leaves in 1946 with a University of Cambridge Junior Overseas School Certificate. Headmaster Carleton Robinson of the Broad Street Government School (now Dolphin Government School) accepts Locke as a pupil-teacher as a favor to former colleague Ivy Mae Locke (a common practice, principals taught apprentices how to teach and prepared them for their compulsory exams). Locke feels he has no skill for drawing-one of the subjects requiring a passing grade-and so Locke takes lessons from the school’s art teacher Agnes Jones.
Attends the second session of the Working Peoples’ Free Art Class offered by local artist E.R. Burrowes to further develop his drawing. Locke is profoundly impacted by the charismatic personality of the teacher.
Earns a Teacher’s Certificate from the Guyana Ministry of Education in 1950. Contributes annually to Working People’s Art Class (WPAC) exhibitions, from which title “Free” is dropped. Serves for a time as WPAC’s secretary, assisting in organizing outdoor and traveling shows in Berbice County. Major sale of a small painting to Anthony Haynes (of an English family from Barbados, later highly regarded for his association in the 1950s with writers of the Caribbean Artists’ Movement in London). In 1952, wins WPAC’s First Prize Gold Medal Award for abstract painting The Happy Family.
Awarded a British Council Scholarship to Bath Academy of Art, Corsham, England; earns a Teaching Certificate in Art Education with a Supplementary Certificate in the Visual Arts with Museum and Drama (equivalent to a B.A.). Studies painting under William Scott and Bryan Wynter; pottery under James Tower; and sculpture under Ken Armitage and Bernard Meadows, from whom he absorbs the doctrine of vitalism. Tower’s pottery, conceived as part of this tradition, has a long-lasting and decisive influence on Locke’s bronze and ceramic work. Earns scholarship from the Guyana Department of Education for third year at Bath Academy (1956-57).
Returns to Georgetown; teaches art at Dolphin Government School and WPAC; exhibits annually with WPAC. Organizes exhibition of drawings and watercolors as well as The Teacher and the Child at the Carnegie Library. The latter includes works by teachers who took Locke’s art classes shown alongside those by children they themselves taught.
Continues his association with Burrowes, now regarded as the father of art in Guyana. Marries Leila Chaplin, a fellow Corsham student and teacher at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Girls School. Lacking conventional pottery-making facilities, he successfully fires large earthenware, coiled pots using a sawdust-direct, dustbin kiln based on experiments first seen at Corsham.
Awarded Abstract Painting of the Year by Guyanese Art Group Annual Exhibition for his painting Introductory lines to Milton’s L’allegro. First child, Hew Locke, born in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Receives Government Ministry of Education award to study for M.A. honors degree in fine arts (equivalent to Ph.D.) at Edinburgh University. While at Edinburgh College of Art, he meets and works with American artists, including Dave Cohen, Sheldon Kaganof and Dion Myers from California, at the time when the influence of the California clay movement first appears in Britain. It takes some time before this new thinking, linked to the New York abstract expressionist movement, makes an impression. When it does, it completely eclipses the Corsham tradition and the pervading influence of Moore’s vitalism. The technical and philosophical thinking of the now historic clay revolution of California are the most significant influences governing studio production until arrival in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1990.
Receives Lowenstein Fellowship to attend conference at the Institution for the Documentation of Dutch Art History in The Hague, Netherlands.
Second child, Jonathan Locke, born in Edinburgh (1962). Receives Edinburgh University grants for historical research in Florence and Ravenna, Italy. Organizes an exhibition of West Indian and Guyanese art at the Paperback Gallery and meets fellow Guyanese artist Frank Bowling on a visit to London, England, to borrow one of his works for the exhibition.
Completes graduate thesis analyzing versions of the portrait of Sebastian Vrancx from the Centum Icon’s, The Iconography of Van Dyck, ca. 1645-49. Returns to Georgetown to be Art Master at Queen’s College. Lacking facilities for making ceramics, turns back to painting. Third child, Corinne Locke, born.
Guyana gains independence (1966). With wife Leila, Dudley Charles, Philip Moore and Judy Drayton (later Judy Craig, chief sculptor at Madame Tussauds in London ), forms “The 1967 Group.” Curates one-person exhibitions of paintings by Judy Craig and Leila Locke at the John F. Kennedy Library. Drafts master plan for a Festival of Child Art sponsored by the Guyana branch of the Society for Childhood Education. Holds two group exhibitions (1967 and 1968) at the British Council and the John F. Kennedy Libraries. Ministry of Foreign Affairs purchases painting to donate to Brazilian government on the occasion of establishing diploma is relations with that country.
Sponsored by British Council Bursary, takes leave from Queen’s College to do private research in ceramics at Edinburgh College of Art. Organizes exhibition of paintings by Queen’s College students there.
Makes Easter visit to Brazil on fellowship from Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Exhibits large biomorphic ceramic sculptures made while at Edinburgh in group exhibition at Camden Arts Center under pseudonym Issorosano Ite. Resigns from Queen’s College and returns to live in London.
Initial works produced in the London studio come out of the vitalist tradition. Teaches ceramics at various schools and colleges in England, including Chester College of Art (1972-73). Donald Bowen, Director of the Art Gallery of the Commonwealth Institute, coins the term “mixed media ceramics” to describe work in 1975 solo exhibition there. Work consists in part of biomorphic forms in ceramics and cast aluminum; other pieces are constructed of metal, wood, leather, fur and ceramics. These include the Plantation Series, a sculptural metaphor for the corrosive plantation system of labor, wealth and social structure. Serves as guest artist at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine in 1976 on his first visit to the United States. Returns the following year to give workshop in experimental sculpture and meets Randy Schmidt, a professor at the Graduate School of Ceramics at Arizona State University in Tempe, also teaching there. Their instant bond results in an invitation to be ASU guest artist when possible.
Awarded Guggenheim Fellowship in Sculpture. Accepts Schmidt’s offer and is given a studio in graduate ceramics department. Arrives in September and is introduced to Southwestern culture on his first night there by a midnight visit to a Yaqui burial ground. Geographical and cultural differences between Georgetown, London and Arizona are staggering to Locke.
First bronze sculptures are cast by Arizona Bronze Foundry, beginning a long-lasting association. Working there on his own pieces emphasizes his departure from ceramics; he studies, learns everything possible about and experiments with bronze casting. Largest piece eventually cast is Timehri Bird, six feet tall, commissioned by the shipping company that brought his studio contents from England to Arizona.
During this introductory bronze period, an overheard remark (“nobody makes nudes any more”) leads to a return to a stylized figurative sculpture for the first time since 1964. Divorces Leila and marries Brenda Stephenson of Shropshire, England, an art consultant in Scottsdale, Arizona. U.S. permanent residency is granted. Begins writing on art as the Arizona correspondent for Artspace Magazine, a quarterly contemporary arts magazine published in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Also writes weekly reviews for New Tim’s, a weekly Phoenix, Arizona, newspaper, and occasionally for Arizona Living and Arts Magazine of New York. The focus of criticism is the astonishing vitality of the current Southwest art. His article on Arizona painter Merrill Mahaffey, “The Art of Synthetic Realism,” is judged by the Chicago Art Examiner (Spring 1982) as best article of all art magazines reviewed. Moves to Phoenix in 1983.
Makes first visit to the Art Fair at Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois, and is stunned by the architecture and vitality of the city. Meets ceramics writer Susan Peterson and Crafts Horizons writer/editor Rose Siivka.
Teaches bronze casting for one semester at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The human head-the class subject-inspires the execution of a series of portraits ranging from two inches tall to over life-size.
During his second visit to the Art Fair in Chicago, Locke has extremely influential talks with painter Janice Hightower and the young African American art dealer Derek Beard. Returning to Phoenix, he makes a decisive shift to painting after 10 years spent almost exclusively as a three-dimensional artist. Invited to participate in an exhibition curated by Rasheed Araeen at the Hayward Gallery in London that features works by African, Asian and Caribbean artists living in Britain since the end of World War II.
Moves to Atlanta, Georgia. Encountering the work of the African American vernacular artists of the Southeast, familiarly referred to as “Souls Grown Deep,” further frees Locke from what he now views as an alien inheritance, i.e. the academic legacy of European civilization. The acrylic, collage and mixed media works begun after the second Chicago trip evolve into large paintings using heavy paint, photographs and Xerox copies of selected magazine clippings, material, wood, metal, found objects and other found materials mounted on canvas.
Receives a five-year grant for one of 12 studios at NEXUS and takes up sculpture again. Participates in the Atlanta Biennial and 20th anniversary celebrations at NEXUS, renamed Atlanta Contemporary.
Submits six models and one is accepted for commission to execute one of 12 public sculptures for CODA (Commission for Olympic Development of Atlanta). The models consist of totemic arrangements of a variety of three-dimensional shapes in wax, some of which have been in the studio for at least 10 years. After the sculpture is completed and installed, experimenting with new arrangements of these shapes continues. As in London when he added other media and materials to the basic clay to create mixed media ceramics, now other media and materials are added to the wax to make new shapes, forms and personages. These creations bring back long-buried images and narratives from the vernacular culture of Guyanese folk. Some of the materials, such as leather, fur, snakeskin, African utensils, bush rope from the Guyana forest, exotic woods, found metal, ceramic objects and dried twigs and branches from old trees have been in the studio for as long as 30 years.
First major showing of the new sculptures at Solomon Projects in Atlanta. Favorable reviews locally as well as in Art Papers and Sculpture International.
A retrospective exhibition in City Gallery East’s Master Series: Donald Locke: The Road to El Dorado – Twelve Years in Atlanta, sponsored by the Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs consists of sculpture and paintings done there over the past 13 years. Catalogue accompanies exhibition.
Modernity, Identity and the Vernacular in the Work of Donald Locke, a solo exhibition at Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, Newark, New Jersey as part of their ongoing series Bending the Grid. Curated by Carl E. Hazlewood, the exhibition spans the 1960s through to current work including paintings, bronzes and mixed media wax sculptures. Catalogue accompanies the exhibition. First review of Aljira exhibitions by Holland Cotter, New York Times was of this particular show.
First solo exhibition at Skoto Gallery in New York.
Participated in Transitions II at Museum of Contemporary Art, GA; and Talking Furniture Design: Sculpture at Museum of Design, GA.
Invited to participate in Back To Black: The Black Arts Movement at Whitechapel Gallery, London, focusing on the rise of the Black Arts Movement in the US, Britain and Jamaica in the 1960s and 1970s. Locke’s Trophies of Empire I, 1972-74, was selection as it was the most affecting and powerful work by black artist working in London during this period. As the catalogue describes:
Back to Black’s themes delineate the issues, characteristics and moods of 1960s and 70s artists an audiences. Black consciousness before the historic signing of the Civil Rights Act by US President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 is explored through the work of artists such as Mel Edwards, Donald Locke and Aubrey Williams.
Returns to ceramics after twenty-five year interval and also stops working in bronze. Makes large black and white drawings which are shown at Spruill Gallery and at City Gallery East in Atlanta.
Becomes a member of Mudfire Studios, using their ceramic firing facilities to complete the sculptures made in clay.
Shows with Looks Good on Paper exhibition at Spruill Center, GA.
Second solo exhibition at Skoto Gallery, NY, Master Works / Recent Works, comprising bronzes, mixed media ceramics, sculptures and large charcoal drawings. Video tape of gallery discussion and interview; as well as illustrated color brochure, sponsored by Guyanese collector, Timothy Griffith.
Exhibits new large drawings and mixed media “tree sculpture” with The Masters Series Reunion, at City Gallery East, Atlanta GA. Catalogue accompanies exhibition.
Traveling UK exhibition Pork Knocker Dreams – Recent Work by Donald Locke, sponsored by the Arts Council of Great Britain and curated by Indra Khanna, opens September 2009 at New Art Exchange, Nottingham, and travels to Wolverhampton Art Gallery in February 2010.
Included in Collected: Propositions on the Permanent Collection Studio Museum of Harlem, NY, April-June 2009; as well as Tradition Redefined: The Larry and Brenda Thompson Collection of African American Art at David Driskell Center for the Arts, University of Maryland, February-May; the exhibition continues to tour through 2014. Catalogue accompanies exhibition, edited by Dr Adrienne Childs.
Solo exhibition at Stella Jones Gallery, New Orleans, The Edge of Spirit: A Selection of Drawings and Mixed Media Sculptures by Donald Locke, October l – November 30, showing most recent mixed media ceramics and drawings. Publication of book Out of Anarchy: Five Decades of Ceramics and Hybrid Sculptures (1959-2009), The Work of Donald Locke. The book is a narrative of work and influences in Guyana, Scotland, England and the USA of the past 50 years. With over 50 color illustrations, it is designed by Cicely Cottingham, edited by Guyanese writer Nigel Rogers, and published by Aljira Center for Contemporary Arts, NJ. Foreword is by Anthony Shaw, gallerist and collector, London.
Included posthumously in Contemporary Expressions: Art from the Guyana Diaspora, FiveMyles Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. Curated by Carl E Hazlewood who also edited the accompanying catalogue.
Included posthumously in a group exhibition at Kenkelaba, Timehri Transitions: Expanding concepts in Guyana Art.
Included posthumously in group exhibition at Museum of African Diaspora, San Francisco, Cultivation Crosscurrents: Africa and Black Diasporas in Dialogue, 1960-1980.
The University of Maryland’s David C. Driskell Center acquires two bronze sculptures, Reclining Nude, n.d., 6″h x 15″ x 7″ and Venus, 1991, 20.5″h x 8″ x 5.5″ through the donation of the Sandra and Lloyd Baccus Collection.
The Estate of Donald Locke donates Landscape with Kwame N’Krumah, 1992, acrylic and collage on canvas, 93″ x 72″ and Black Garden Box #2, 1975, ceramic, suede, epoxy, 8″h x 19″ dia. to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). The new museum will open on the national Mall in late 2016.
Included posthumously in a group exhibition at Gallery 72 in Atlanta, Art Against the Wall: An Artist Response to Civil Wars. Curated by Radcliffe Bailey.
Tate Britain acquires Trophies of Empire, 1972-74, which is included in a major survey exhibition Artist and Empire and catalogue of same name; Nov 25, 2015 to April 10, 2016.
Third solo exhibition at Skoto Gallery, Chelsea NY: The Plantation Series featuring paintings and sculptures from the 1970s.