Rebirth

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Photo: Stephen Pitkin / Pitkin Studio
1987
Wire, nails, and paint on Masonite
12 x 18.5 inches

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Rebirth, created when Lockett was twenty-two, remains a gateway into all his subsequent artistic thinking.

Rebirth, created when Lockett was twenty-two, remains a gateway into all his subsequent artistic thinking. In the work, a quadruped skeleton ("a baby," Lockett called it), a matrix of wire and nails, exits a blue and green zone at right and moves into a black emptiness engulfing most of the picture. Rebirth turns away from the aesthetics of "life": (1) the colors blue and green, the basic indicators for water, air, chlorophyll; (2) adulthood—the movements all life makes toward biological maturity; and (3) right-sidedness, with its deeply set implications of left-to-right progress, literacy, time lines, evolutionary charts, rights-of-way, and etiquette. Rebirth relates to Sacrifice, a crucifixion of wrapped wire on a blue and green field, whose body of Christ is also fashioned of wire and nails. The skeleton of Rebirth investigates the liberating potential of non-life. The animal moves backward through the picture, forsaking right for left, adulthood for youth, bigness for smallness, light for dark, terrestriality for absence. Rebirth announced Lockett's lifelong search, as fervid as religion, for new beginnings amid the non-life of urban black male existence that had been his starting point in the world.