Dancing Free I
The colorful figures in this painting dance in a field of flowers, symbolic of both joy and agrarian labor. As a foil, the cement canvas represents both the security and the difficult demands of urban life. This work is part of a series of fresco-style paintings made on cement, where that material is suggestive of an urban landscape and the infrastructure of the industrial North. Each piece comments on the contradictory freedoms awaiting Southern Black migrants fleeing to Northern cities from Jim Crow policies in the South. These images ultimately suggest safety and security while also suggesting a history of land stewardship.
Jarrett Key's paintings and sculptures explore the nuances of the contemporary Black experience and demands for equality. Their work draws from their own experience of moving to NYC from rural Alabama and incorporates realities of hyper-surveillance and dispossession. Key examines the difficult lives awaiting Southern Black migrants fleeing Jim Crow policies and the history of Black freedom in America.
Jarrett Key was born in 1990 in Seale, Alabama. They grew up in rural Alabama and pursued their fine art practice in New York City after graduating from Brown University in 2013. They hold an MFA in painting from Rhode Island School of Design. They were one of Forbes 30 under 30 for Art and Style 2020.
Key’s work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including: 1969 Gallery in New York City; NXTHVN in New Haven, Connecticut; Fierman Gallery in New York City; Steve Turner in Los Angeles, California; La MaMa Galleria in New York City; The Columbus Museum in Columbus, Georgia; and the RISD Museum in Providence, Rhode Island; among others.
Key’s work has been collected by many institutions, including: the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection; The Columbus Museum; Brown University; RISD Special Collections, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Museum of Modern Art Library, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Library; among others.
Key lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island.