The Art Galleries (TAG) at Austin Community College and Print Austin hosted Rashaun Rucker for an artist talk about his creative process and experience being a juror for the current exhibition in Gallery 2000, The Contemporary Print. Close to 100 people attended the hybrid artist talk that took place at ACC on January 26, 2023 and online via Zoom. Rucker described himself as a “country boy who likes printmaking and drawing,” but he’s also an award-winning artist and photojournalist of over twenty years. He is currently a Detroit-based Mellon Resident at the University of Michigan Institute of Humanities.
Before Rucker made drawings and prints about the conditioning of Black men and his family narratives, he was inventing toys by drawing superhero comics and wrestlers while growing up in North Carolina. He credits three figures who provided his biggest inspiration at a young age, Rick Flair, Professional Wrestler, Thanos from Marvel, and his middle school art teacher, Kathy Williams. Art teachers noticed Rucker’s talent for art throughout his schooling and were some of his biggest supporters. In college, it was obvious that Rucker could draw, but a professor once told him, “so you can draw, but it doesn’t mean anything.” which led him to take himself and his work seriously.
Rucker delivered an inspiring and intimate look at his thoughts on drawing, printmaking, and jurying The Contemporary Print exhibition. His latest graphite drawings explore the conditioning of Black men by combining portraits of Black men in Rucker’s life and pigeons. The pigeon symbolism is layered and aims to explore the social and racial conditioning of Black men in America. In his drawings, he comments on the perception of Black men and pigeons by society, mass incarceration and pigeon coops, clay pigeons and prison uniforms. The series is personal and powerful, inviting viewers to connect and reflect on their assumptions and perceptions.
Rucker described printmaking as a “therapeutic, reductive” process, like “drawing with a knife, backward.” His prints lean more toward family narratives, baptisms, cousins, and grandparents. During the artist talk, Rucker told the audience about his work with the homeless community in Detroit. He would draw from the community, making large portraits of several community members. He later gave the drawings to the community to journal on the back of. The results were astoundingly beautiful and human. Many wrote letters, apologies, and life stories. Rucker showed the drawings and writings in an exhibit and donated all proceeds to the homeless shelter. For Rashaun, there is so much to do and communicate through art. While jurying The Contemporary Print exhibition, he reviewed close to 1000 submissions, looking at the context, technique, names, titles, and artist statements. I think it’s fair to say he juried a fantastic show full of talented printmakers.
In addition to a closer look into his personal history and work, Rucker imparted plenty of inspiring advice to awaken our inner artists. He tells us to “make work from a place of complete joy” because if we don’t believe in our work, it will show. Name your artwork! Things with names are cared about. Meet and seek out people to learn more about them and their processes. You never know what it might lead to. ACC Art and Digital Media Division and TAG were honored to host and collaborate with Rashaun Rucker for such a memorable evening.
If you missed this artist talk, you can view it at: https://youtu.be/N6VpySkQoBo
Written by: Maddie George