Enrico Riley (American b. 1973)
Untitled: Evening Shakedown
Oil on canvas
64 x 60 inches.
Unflinching, exuberant, curvaceous, and aggressively animated in their faux-naïveté, Enrico Riley’s new compositions are intensely colored, large in scale, and filled with a forceful, highly personal visual language that calls to mind the work of Philip Guston and Jean Michel Basquiat. Many paintings include inverted and truncated nudes, nooses, ropes, gun barrels, helmets, dogs, and male genitalia. Riley’s early-career abstractions have increasingly given way to figurative compositions, these often reflecting the artist’s experiences as an African American and personal perspective on social issues.
When asked about the evolution of his painting, Riley says, “The act of painting doesn’t exist isolated from time; it responds to the artist’s development as a human being, and as you move through life and have different experiences, how you paint changes, subtly or drastically.” He further explains, “It has become important for me to take advantage of the ebb and flow of my non-painting life and use that as primary information in my painting practice. Painting for me is formal but the formal decisions have to be deployed through something else: need, desire, or appetite.”
Riley’s feverish exploration of these very appetites and desires can be found in his 2015 work, “Abstract: He Loved her Madly, Woman Jumping into the Sea,” saturated in color, the artist applies heavy paint layers and thick lines to emphasize the bare limbs and male genitalia of the partially submerged figures as they dive into the green water. Equally powerful is Riley’s “Untitled: Evening Shakedown,” an enigmatic vision of a black arm, perhaps the artist’s, extending from the left edge of the canvas holding a paper bill to a gun barrel, horn cluster and spiked helmet, while a white dog points his sharp tail upward, all elements arranged against the solid barrier of a palisade fence under a night sky.
Enrico Riley received a BA in Visual Studies from Dartmouth College where he is currently Associate Professor of Studio Art. He received an MFA in painting from Yale University and has twice been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center. Some of his solo exhibitions include Giampietro Gallery in New Haven, CT, Pageant Gallery in Philadelphia, PA, and Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. His work has also been included in group exhibitions in New York City at Lori Bookstein Fine Art, Reeves Contemporary, The Painting Center, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In September of 2015 Riley’s “Giant Steps” was exhibited as part of the permanent collection at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.