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Developing a historical imagination and fondness for drawing stories, Gregory Rick’s cathartic mark-making process collapses history while confronting personal trauma. His works reflect episodes of individual experience while in dialogue with the wider world, touching deeply on the political nature of oppressive systems. Inspired by a youth fascination with graffiti, Rick’s blatant narratives convey symbolism and cryptic language that capture the recklessness and hysteria of present-day America. He paints on a shaky historical line cemented in humility and conviction, and populates his pictures with “characters who serve as archetypes,” in conjunction with memory and self-exploration.

Gregory Rick

Fissure, Acrylic on canvas, 65" x 60" x 1.5"
Pile of Po, Acrylic on canvas, 63.5" x 56.25" x 1.5"

Gregory Rick

An SFMoMA 2022 SECA Art Award Recipient

“I used to read comic books and graphic novels, and I would copy military illustrations. My dad had a couple of encyclopedias on World War II. I would try, try, try to copy this tank or that airplane. I would put them in my own narratives on that perforated copy paper. And I did graffiti from the time I was eleven or twelve. A really beautiful part of graffiti is its economy of space and what can last on a wall when left to change organically.” Gregory Rick in conversation with Binta Ayofemi 

"The lines separating art and life and imagined wars from (very) real ones are more intertwined for Rick than most. In hearing his stories it often feels like real life spilled into his art as much as out of it. We strive to be authors of our own lives but we also play roles in stories over which we have far less control." Alex Nicholson on Gregory Rick for Juxtapoz Magazine


Gregory Rick Artist Walkthrough at Johansson Projects 

You had spent time in the Bay Area on your early graffiti trips, but how did you end up back here?

“I came back to Oakland around 2012. I was still borderline strung out. I was painting graffiti and staying in squats and just… broke. One day I was flying a sign and had made enough to get a bag. I gave it to the van and they told me to wait. It was obvious they were going to steal my money, so I thought, “Fuck that,” and jumped through the window. He’s driving down the street picking up speed and I’m hanging out fighting over ten or twenty bucks. Finally, I let go. I just sat there. It was raining and I was fucking broke. I was sick. I knew I needed to make some kind of change. It was this seminal point in my life, a kind of crossroads moment. The next day I went to the VA and started going to groups, got some housing, and slowly started to regain my life. I started going to this group where they actually did art.” Alex Nicholson in conversation with Gregory Rick for Juxtapoz Magazine

About the Artist