(b. 1944, Los Angeles, CA)
Richard Hickam was born in Los Angeles in 1944. He received his BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1966 and his MFA from the University of New Mexico in 1968. He taught at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, MI in 1968, and the Columbus College of Art from 1969-73. His work has been exhibited at museums such as the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati and Boston University College of Fine Arts, as well as galleries across the United States, including thirteen solo shows at Allan Stone Gallery. His work has been reviewed and reproduced in Art in America, Artforum, The New York Times, Artnews, Fortune Magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle. Hickam lives and works in Elyria, OH.
Richard Hickam's development reveals an underlying dedication to abstraction and confrontation as it follows a non-conformist path from photorealism through unsparingly raw and gestural figuration. Though exquisitely rendered, Hickam's 1970s photorealist paintings and drawings of provocative characters in interior settings belie a penchant for the abstraction fundamental to his vocabulary. These figures inhabit settings of densely patterned drapery and wallpaper whose clashing layers verge on non-objective fields of mark making. In the 1980s, Hickam became restless within the prescribed confines of a technical photorealistic style and opened the door to a looser, open-ended approach to figuration, guided by spontaneous and intuitive paint application. Influences of a Fauvist Matisse as well as the loose brushwork and meaty angularity of early Diebenkorn become apparent in this period. By removing the figures from the “interiors”—the faceted and subdivided backgrounds—Hickam segued to a series of non-objective abstractions through the mid-1990s. The clashing planes, stripes and patterns synthesize his earlier photorealist drapes and wallpaper with an expressive gestural impasto. In the mid-90s, the spatial implications of these pure abstractions transitioned Hickam back to imagery and subject matter through an atmospheric group of interiors and landscapes. Since the late 1990s, increasingly visceral and expressive figuration and still life have dominated his practice. In quotidian subjects haloed with color, Hickam’s still lifes invoke Thiebaud amped up with an intensity verging on psychedelic. The more tempered, even elegant posture of the earlier figures became displaced by an uninhibited “carnivalesque”(1) wildness harkening to Soutine and Bacon. “To imbue portraits of imaginary individuals with a kind of vague familiarity”(2) Hickam uses the free associative potential of abstraction, inviting allusions to myriad characters, aptly dubbed in The New York Times as “universals.”(3) Akin to figurative painters such as Dana Schutz or George Condo, in a decidedly contemporary attitude about method and risk, Hickam reconciles a sense of detachment with a sense of imperative. Hickam distinguishes himself among a coterie of painters through history willing to embrace the absurdities of their paradigm as a conduit to significance.