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Color Within the Lines


Robert A. Ketchens

Aug. 23-Oct. 8, 2021

St. Louis Community College at Wildwood
Gallery of Contemporary Art

A Statement from the Artist

art work - Black in White

I am a true believer in the power of color and its use in painting as emotional thread.

Early in my career, I began to fuse traditional applications of paint with modern art theories. Juxtaposing colors one over the other or next to one another creating colorful contrast and running color changes throughout a painting is visually exciting to me.

The works in this exhibit were influenced by contemporary and historical themes from the African diaspora. These works have symbolic elements throughout that address today’s struggle for equality.

Being a Black man raised in the South, my works are composed and woven with reflections of my collective experiences and visual memory of life in the South’s system of Jim Crow -- separate but not equal.

  • "The Daily Plight of James Black"
  • "SEE ME., SEE ME?, SEE ME!"
  • "Still Blue"
  • "40 Acres"
  • "Black in White"
  • "Charley 'Bird' Parker"
  • "Ground Zero"
  • "Last Dance at Juke Joint (image)"
  • "Last Dance, Cigarbox Guitar"
  • "Miss Gail"
  • "Miss Kanesha"
  • "Miss Isabel"
  • "Miss Kiara"
  • "Miss Latoya"
  • "Miss Shanice"
  • "Mr. DeAndre"
  • "Mr. DeShawn"
  • "Mr. Jaylen"
  • "Mr. Malik"

Meet the Artist

Robert A. KetchensRobert Ketchens is a social realist painter who creates layered artworks that are rich and deep in both color and symbolism. The subjects of his works are predominately influenced by and reflect the social distinctions and complexities of the African diaspora. Ketchens’ work is rooted in traditional theory made fresh with modern applications and sensibility. He is drawn to contemporary and historical themes that are symbolic of the larger search for dignity and humanity in black people. In his paintings, he likes to include visual quotes from noted American masters such as Henry Tanner, Romare Bearden and Charles White.

Robert Ketchens was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1952. In the late 1970’s, he was given the opportunity to study abroad in Wiesbaden, Germany, where he learned traditional techniques in painting. These techniques have remained as the solid foundation through the continuing body of his work.

He has had solo exhibitions nationwide, including those at the Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp Museum, Fontbonne University Museum, the Margaret Harwell Museum, and the Dusable Museum in Chicago. His selected group exhibitions include the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, and the Museum Center of Records and Documents for Senegal in Senegal, West Africa, among others. His work is held in numerous public and private collections, most notably the permanent collection of the Illinois State Museum, and the Missouri History Museum.

In 2016 he received a Purchase Award with the 22nd African American Art Exhibition in Louisville, Kentucky. He exhibited the same year at Art Basel, Miami, Scope Exhibition tent, and several of his paintings were also exhibited in the Macaya Fine Arts Gallery in Miami. Also in 2016, he was commissioned by Focus Films to paint a mural of the famous Olympian Jesse Owens, in downtown St. Louis, to promote the opening of their movie production called “Race”. Then in 2017, he received a commission from the Missouri History Museum to complete four portraits of St. Louis’ African American civil rights leaders and activists, for their exhibition titled “#1 in Civil Rights: The African American Freedom Struggle in St. Louis.” These paintings remain in their permanent collection.

Ketchens currently lives and works in O’Fallon, Illinois.

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