Richard Hawkins is an artist who currently lives and works out of Los Angeles, California. He works with many mediums, and has a wide variety of work that is not readily classifiable. Paintings, collages, and digital images are some of the varied forms his work takes. Hawkins was co-curator of an exhibition of gay male artists called â€śAgainst Natureâ€?, which occurred in 1989. This is the earliest reference to his artwork available. Following the exhibition in the early nineties, Hawkins began working a lot with collage.
His collages often contain male models, or porn stars, sometimes put into new context. Sometimes the collages would consist of only two pages, of a model, and a different background. Throughout these works themes of desire, and being desired, objectivity, and youth and masculinity were addressed. The surfaces for his collages, and some of his paintings were often found images, such as old desks, or other random things. As his work progressed through the nineties, his themes and the work itself evolved.
Toward the end of the nineties Hawkins work became more decadent. Work characteristic of this time include images of severed zombie heads floating in front of an amorphous background of bright colors. These symbolic images were said to exemplify the relationship between cutting, collage, and sadism that was evident through all his work of the nineties. His work eventually lost its symbolism, and took on a painterly theme. Though he painted throughout his career, in the early 2000â€™s he moved through abstraction, and later got into narrative paintings associated with his native Creek heritage.
Hawkins early works are seen as autobiographical, and having a lot to do with shedding identity and exploring relationships. His abstract painting had more to do with the validity of abstraction, and, as with all of his works, many paintings he did looked like they were all done by different artists. His later paintings became narrative and exploratory. He is part Native, and wanted to explore his relationship to that identity, as well as the suffering by Creek people.
In relating Hawkins to Andrea Carlson, who also has a mixed ancestral cultural identity, there are both similarities and differences. Hawkins has explored many more materials for conveying his art than Carlson, however his work relating to his ancestry is in the form of narrative painting. Both Hawkins and Carlson explore their relationship to identity in an ambiguous, yet narrative way. In Carlsonâ€™s work it is easy to see cultural influences, whereas Hawkins stays away from clear connections. Both portray their feelings about the assimilation of identity and struggle associated with that.
I would recommend a friend see an exhibition of Hawkinsâ€™ work. I would like to see one myself. I would tell someone that his mediums are always changing, and the identities and concepts of art he works with are both rational and expressive.
Issue 97, March 2006
Art in America v.83 May, 1995, p. 116, exhibition review