Reginald K. Gee
Blue Ink Bafiak, 1997
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Ink on grocery bag, signed on back
16 x 11 in
Reginald K. Gee was born in Milwaukee on April 28, 1964 to Native American and African American parents and spent most of his childhood on the northwest side of Milwaukee in the Havenwoods neighborhood. Gee has been creating art since 1982, and his professional art debut began in 1986 at an outdoor exhibition at Milwaukee’s Performing Arts Center. Gee is primarily self-taught. He refers to himself as a visionary Neo-Expressionist. Like the Neo-Expressionists, his work is characterized by its raw depiction of subjects, the use of textural and expressive brushwork and intense colors. According to Sotheby’s auction house, Neo-Expressionist art, “[a]s a reflection of the postmodern world,” is characterized by a “sense of tension, alienation and ambiguity” and is “often accompanied by playfulness and parody.” Gee counts among his artistic influences Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and David Salle. He is a brilliant colorist who has produced a body of work numbering in the hundreds, including a series of pastels on brown paper bags executed from 1999-2007, some of which were among the works shown at a 25-year retrospective at the David Barnett Gallery in 2013. The artist has been featured at the Outsider Art Fair in New York, the National Black Fine Arts Show, and the Chicago Black Art Expo. In 2002, two of Gee’s paintings, The Inspiration and Honest Crowd, were selected for inclusion in a Smithsonian traveling exhibition honoring the legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Another Gee painting, Nationwide Tobacco Ban, c 1998, was chosen for a campaign against smoking sponsored by the American Lung Association. According to the Milwaukee Journal in 1999, the artist had a spiritual epiphany that compelled him to move to San Francisco, start a ministry among the homeless, and continue to pursue the art career he began in Milwaukee.