Contemporary artist and vanguard of public art and memorials, Steve Locke will be the keynote speaker at the Gibbes Museum of Art’s annual Distinguished Lecture Series, taking place at the College of Charleston’s Sottile Theatre on Nov. 3. Over the course of his artistic journey, Locke has discovered a passion for public art and monuments, inviting the viewer to interpret these structures and think critically about our shared history.
Locke’s visit to Charleston will follow a year of renewed reckoning with racial injustice and protests in downtown Charleston following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the removal of the John C. Calhoun statue from Marion Square. Locke’s lecture will shed light on the limited ways in which we, as a society, often think about the function and figural content of a monument or memorial and will dive into his career of creating art in response to violence against Black people.
“The City’s History and Culture Subcommittee for the Special Commission on Equity, Inclusion and Racial Conciliation, has been involved in discussions over the past year on how we can address and correct systemic inequities as a community,” says Angela Mack, executive director of the Gibbes Museum of Art. “As Charleston’s leading arts institution, we are committed to extending engaging and thought-provoking programs that address issues in our community. We believe this discussion by Steve Locke will be one of the most sought after and timely of the year, especially since greater public discussion and programing is a key recommendation in the special commission report.”
Locke recontextualizes images and marries the contemporary and the historical, showing that the sins of the American past are alive and well and beg to be addressed. Instead of solely memorializing victims or revisiting trauma, he steers the viewer to the source of the violence. He refuses to let us look away from our complicit role but stands beside us as we face it.
Locke’s work includes a public site for mourning and healing entitled Three Deliberate Grays for Freddie, for Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black American man whose death while in the custody of the Baltimore Police sparked public outrage. In 2018 he proposed a memorial on the site of one of Boston’s most famous landmarks Faneuil Hall, erected in 1743 by its namesake Peter Faneuil, a wealthy merchant who made his fortune from the slave trade. Most recently, Locke has submitted a design for a memorial tribute to the victims of slavery at the Tuileries Garden in Paris.
Locke’s #Killers series consists of drawings of individuals who have killed Black people, including Dylann Roof, who killed nine church members at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in 2015. These drawings, on a full 20×30 inch sheet of Stonehenge paper, are meant to direct the viewer to the source of this kind of violence. Locke says, “the source is these men and the inchoate, and unnameable whiteness that creates and supports them. In these drawings, I make that whiteness visible… it is the condition that makes these people and their crimes inevitable.”
Locke was born in 1963 in Cleveland and raised in Detroit. He received his Master of Fine Arts in 2001 from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. In 2020, he was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Solo exhibitions include the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, among others. He attended residencies with the City of Boston (2018), the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (2016), The MacDowell Colony (2015) and Skowhegan (2002). Locke is a recipient of grants from Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation and Art Matters Foundation. His work has been reviewed in Artforum, Art in America, The Boston Globe and The New Yorker, and his writing has been published in Artforum as well as in museum catalogues. Locke is a Professor of Fine Arts at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.
- What: Distinguished Lecture Series featuring Steve Locke
- When: Wednesday, November 3, 2021, at 6:00 p.m.
- Where: College of Charleston’s Sottile Theatre, 44 George Street
- Pricing: Tier 1: $60; $50 for Gibbes Members. Tier 2: $40. Student/Faculty: $15 with ID. Virtual access: $10
- Tickets will go on sale to Gibbes members for a pre-sale window from Monday, Aug. 30 through Friday, Sept. 3, and will open to the public on Monday, Sept 20. Tickets will be available through the Sottile Theatre website, sottile.cofc.edu.
Event sponsors include The Francis Marion Hotel, The Kennard Kennedy Family Fund, The Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust and The Post and Courier. The Distinguished Lecture Series was founded with the generous support of former Gibbes board member and philanthropist Esther Ferguson.
Editor’s Note: For high-res photos of Steve Locke, visit https://bit.ly/3yLxSWs. To watch an interview with Steve on Three Deliberate Grays, visit https://bit.ly/3g8maOl. For more information about The Distinguished Lecture Series, visit www.gibbesmuseum.org.
About the Distinguished Lecture Series
Founded with the generous support of former Gibbes Board member and philanthropist Esther Ferguson, the Distinguished Lecture Series brings engaging, world-renowned artists, art collectors, museum leaders, philanthropists, and art historians to Charleston to stimulate public discussion about creativity and the visual arts. Previous speakers have included environmental artist Christo, Leonard A. Lauder, cosmetics tycoon and philanthropists, architects Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, Philippe de Montebello, director-emeritus of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, legendary contemporary American artist Jeff Koons, Pablo Picasso’s grandson Olivier Picasso, artist-architect and environmentalist Maya Lin, contemporary conceptual artist Fred Wilson and renowned art collector Martin Z. Margulies.
About the Gibbes Museum of Art
Home to the Carolina Art Association, established in 1858, the Gibbes Museum of Art is recognized among the oldest arts organizations in the United States. Housing one of the foremost collections of American Art from the 18th century to the present, the museum’s mission is to enhance lives through art by engaging people of every background and experience with art and artists of enduring quality and by providing opportunities to learn, to discover, to enjoy and to be inspired by the creative process. For more information, visit www.gibbesmuseum.org.