Rick Briggs

Rick Briggs

Fellow: Awarded 2011
Field of Study: Fine Arts

Competition: US & Canada

Artist’s Statement


My self-referential paintings may take abstract or loosely representational forms, but they all share an impulse to unify my life and my art, as well as to create an arena, or field of play, where different forms and ideas about painting can interact and talk with one another.

While my history has primarily been as an abstract painter, my initial foray into representation came about out of a need to tell a story. In 1999, after a three-year hiatus from art-making brought on by a general sense of disillusionment with the art world, I began a series of darkly comic, narrative paintings depicting a fictionalized alter ego/artist suffering under the weight of anonymity and the relentless omnipresence of his day job. Ironically, it was my embrace of this sense of invisibility that ultimately led to the series Painter Man and my first solo show. Mining areas of vulnerability and insecurity have long been a value of mine, as a means of getting to deeper regions of subject matter. But really, for me, any emotion can be the prelude to making a painting.  I love this quote of Cezanne’s:  "A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art."

If Painter Man represented a humorous take on the dark side of being an artist, I wondered how the more optimistic side of painting might be pictured. In this current series, the palette has brightened considerably, the forms have become more abstracted, and the concern with narrative has lessened. There are still paintings of a painter painting walls but now he is also depicted making abstract paintings in the studio. Continuing the self-referential theme, these depicted abstract paintings refer to a series I made in the mid-90s. Also featured are the rooms and walls where these various activities take place. Perception, itself, becomes a subject as a number of busts of painters are presented not painting, but simply looking. Complicating matters further, I am also making a series of new abstract paintings with house paint and paint rollers that "might" be the paintings my fictional stand-in is doing when he’s not painting walls.

Taken as a whole, the work is intended as a meditation on the artist’s life: working, painting, looking, and contemplating. And by presenting various types of painting side-by-side, the intention is that the work also serve as a meditation on the nature of painting itself.


A native of Philadelphia, artist Rick Briggs moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 1981, three years after attending the Tyler School of Art (B.F.A). A scholarship from SUNY Purchase followed in 1992 (M.F.A.). That same year, he received a Fellowship from the Edna St. Vincent Millay Colony. Beginning in 1983 in an exhibition sponsored by White Columns, Briggs began exhibiting in various group shows in New York venues such as Dorsky, in a show curated by Joe Fyfe, Paula Cooper, Ronald Feldman, Pierogi, and James Biederman’s N3 Project Space. He also participated in Current Undercurrent (1997) and Open House (2004), curated by Charlotta Kotik, at the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition series Working in Brooklyn. More recently, his work has been featured in the exhibitions Party at Phong’s (2008), curated by Chris Martin, at Janet Kurnatowski, and Making Do (2008), curated by Robert Storr at the Yale University School of Art (the only painter selected in the three-year history of the annual exhibition). In 2005, he had his first solo exhibition, Painter Man, at the Sarah Bowen Gallery in Brooklyn and more recently, a second solo show at Valentine in 2012. In addition to the Guggenheim Fellowship, Mr. Briggs is a 2012 recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Fellowship.


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