Raél Jero Salley is an artist, cultural theorist and art historian. He holds degrees from The Rhode Island School of Design (BFA), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA), and The University of Chicago (PhD). His research interests include modern and contemporary art and visual culture, with a focus on Blackness and African Diaspora.
About the Artwork
My artwork addresses a wide range of human experience.
My practice struggles through issues of representation, broadly. It is grounded in the history and tradition of Painting, and the creative work addresses its subjects in non-linear, non-narrative ways.
I respond creatively to things and ideas that strike me as interesting—space, movement, landscape, abstraction—big ideas, but I respond to small ones too.
I produce artwork in series or groups. They come together and appear as projects. I think of the works appearing more like constellations. Its challenging to communicate this verbally or narratively, but visually it can make sense.
For instance, my recent project titled Promise started because I was struck by images that I discovered in an archive of photographs. The ideas expanded to working through—visually, in paintings—the idea of ‘promise’, where each picture is based on one (or a few) of the photographs I discovered. Each photograph was a starting point for producing a painting.
For me, this allows the idea and working method to be—in a strange way—both conceptual and material at once.
We as viewers use our imaginations all of the time, but often we do not acknowledge it. I think this way of matters to things small and great—from what we choose to wear to our formal politics.
I go back to the idea of constellations—Humans have probably always made connections by means of picture making—by drawing imaginary lines to link one celestial body to another we gather a sense of our place in the universe.
My general interest is in how we look at things and expect them to be meaningful. I want my pictures to generate more questions than answers, to open and expand dialog rather than close it down by offering answers.