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    The art of Ronald Lockett (American, 1965–1998) is both deeply connected to his life in the American South and transcendently resonant with broader human experience. In visually arresting works assembled from found materials, Lockett used a symbolic cast of animal avatars to address themes of struggle, survival, and injustice that are powerfully relevant today. Lockett took on issues such as the unfulfilled promises of the civil rights movement, environmental degradation, the trauma of war, and acts of domestic terrorism in works whose beauty and weight testify to the resilience of the human spirit.

    Revealing one of the South’s best-kept secrets, this exhibition was the first retrospective dedicated to Lockett, whose career was cut short when the artist died of AIDS-related pneumonia at the age of thirty-two. Fever Within featured more than fifty of Lockett's paintings, sculptures, and assemblages—including works from the High’s collection—that embody the stunning evolution of his artistic practice.

    Raised in Bessemer, Alabama, Lockett was heavily influenced by other self-taught African American artists in his close-knit community, including his cousin Thornton Dial, Sr. (American, 1928–2016), who mentored and encouraged him. Fever Within was accompanied by Forging Connections: Ronald Lockett’s Alabama Contemporaries, a companion exhibition of large-scale sculptures that linked Lockett to key artists who emerged from the African American steel communities of Birmingham and Bessemer, Alabama, in the late twentieth century. This exhibition, exclusive to the High Museum, included artworks by Lockett; Thornton Dial, Sr.; Thornton Dial, Jr.; Richard Dial; Lonnie Holley; and Joe Minter, much of which was on view publicly for the first time.

    Organization and Support
    This exhibition was organized by the Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was made possible in part by awards from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding was provided by the Southern Studies Fund of the Department of American Studies, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    Photograph by William Arnett

    Photograph by William Arnett

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