Ronald Lockett (1965-1998), who lived in Bessemer, Alabama, near his older cousin and artistic mentor Thornton Dial, experimented with various media and techniques throughout his short career. In 1992 or 1993, he began working with rusted sheet metal, using the monochromatic material as figure and ground, perforating his surfaces to create mass from negative space. In Beginning, two fawns are outlined in puncture marks and given shape through thin strips of metal. Their ground - an oasis on the stark panel - is formed from cut and nailed sections of the same surface. The flaking, rusting metal is an arid and barren landscape; the animals fade into this ground while simultaneously asserting their existence through strong outlines and alert postures. These fragile creatures embody Lockett’s longstanding concerns of ephemerality, destruction and memory. By his death at age 32, the artist had created a body of work that considered memorialization on personal and large-scale levels; his pieces ranged in subject from his weakening body to national tragedy (including a series about the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City) to the disappearing natural world.
Lockett's work is the subject of a major traveling retrospective organized by the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The exhibition opened at the American Folk Art Museum, New York, in June 2016, and subsequent venues include the High Museum, Atlanta, and the Ackland.