A stray in the orchard
If Kettle Art Gallery, down in Deep Ellum, had a stable of artists, I think Richard L Ross would qualify. His work has shown there several times and for good reason, he exemplifies much of Kettle Art Gallery’s aesthetics. When I think of Ross and Kettle, I think playful, street, youthful, and energetic art.
Ross and I go way back. I had the extreme pleasure to show with him back in 2005. Over the years, I have seen his work at Kettle and at the Deep Ellum Art Fair. And each time I see Ross’s work, I notice subtle changes and small experiments. He is willing to take risks in his work, while maintaining coherent, consistent ideas. I must say, when I was checking out his Facebook art images, his drawings are more far afield from his painting. I think Ross is stepping away from his content in his painting to do further experiments, which might or might not inform further works. Ross has always played with text, but it would seem the words and phrases he uses have become more mysterious and are less obviously complementing his images.
I think what attracts me to his work is his childlike imagery that is inspired by street art, his use of Modernist techniques, and his commitment to narrative. Much like artist Takashi Murakami, Ross’s characters appear and reappear in painting after painting. Each Pea character takes on dynamic personalities that evolve over the life of his work. Many of his paintings act as mini adventures for his characters, while in others he creates a kind of portrait painting. If these characters were not in Ross’s paintings, I can easily imagine them jumping onto a cartoon film, a comic book series, mass merchandise, maybe even Ross Land Theme Parks. On the other hand, Ross also seems to identify with “being Dallas.” He is a kind of regionalist artist that says something about the place he is living. American regionalist became famous during the 1930’s with Thomas Hart Benton, but I would argue that the true regionalist spirit lives on in Ross and artists like him. Even if Ross shows outside of Dallas, I think his work would act as an ambassador to everything that is Dallas, and particularly to Deep Ellum.
I once commented that his work was my guilty pleasure, but I would like to amend my past statement; there is no shame in loving Ross’s work. The show just opened August 23rd, and Kettle Art Gallery is open Thursday through Saturday 7PM to 10PM.
ModernDallas.net for more images.