Most of you know Ricky Lee Gordon as the founder of /A WORD OF ART. Those who didn’t know that he is the man behind the scenes have surely seen him around the Gallery in the Woodstock Industrial Centre, clip board in hand, at one of the many exhibitions he curates. At the very least you’ve received a facebook invite from him to attend Papergirl, The T-shirt show, The Bin R250 show, One night only and the like that /A WORD OF ART has had a hand in organizing. In short, Ricky Lee Gordon is an Artist, Creative director,Curator, Creative Activist and founder of /A WORD OF ART and Write on Africa but nobody can be summed up in a sentence so this is his story.
“My mom was an art teacher out of our garage for the local kids when I was growing up. She told them that art is in all of us and it’s up to us to bring it out. I loved that and to this day tell kids the same thing.” Like most 90s kids Ricky grew up influenced by popular culture, skateboarding, KTV, graffiti, comics and movies.
Ricky excelled at art in high school but didn’t pursue it further. His reasoning, “I wanted to experience and learn from the world rather.” Being interested in brands and their effect on contemporary youth culture and society, he started a clothing label, Muthaland at 18 years old. The brand was aimed at a new South African generation and was focused on supporting art and culture. While it grew nationwide over 3 years it also grew less enjoyable for its creator and Ricky set his sights on other things.
The Graffiti Bug Bites
At 18 he was also involved in another project, “I created a graffiti art agency and was managing work for Rasty, Faith47 and Mak1one for over 4 years. They really gave me a hard time with my own work as I was very eager to work alongside them, but I learned very quickly that it takes years of experience to make an artist who they are.” Ricky counts these artists as friends and inspirations for his own work.
Write on Africa
“This project humbles me and reminds me as an artist what my contribution to society should be.” Write on Africa is a not for profit initiative that mobilizes creativity in Africa for inspiration, social change and urban rejuvenation. The idea behind Write on Africa is creative activism through special events and art in public space. One of their latest projects is in conjunction with Painting Creches and together they’ve been busy brightening up creches in township areas.
/A WORD OF ART
This initiative is in the form of an art space and art projects that are dedicated to celebrating new art and emerging new artists. It aims to create experiences rather than white-wall gallery shows. Ricky explains,” The chapters to come will be reflective of what is happening within this new artistic subculture, which is a mix of street art, graffiti art, underground art, popular art, modern art and contemporary art. Internationally this movement is described as “New brow”, an evolution of “Low brow”, as it is claimed that it is not low and it is not high, it’s simply just new.”
Over a year ago /A WORD OF ART moved into the Woodstock Industrial Building, and since has being working with the landlord to form a community of creativity. The 60 year old industrial building situated in the heart of Woodstock – Cape Town’s emerging creative precinct – is now the home to a diverse mix of artists, designers and photographers, alongside factories, carpenters and bakeries.
Freddy Sam – Ricky’s Personal Work
Freddy Sam is a combination of Ricky’s two grandfathers’ names. It’s the name that he has given himself as a artist. “I have been painting with spray can as a medium for the last 9 years. I love painting on the street, it gives me a satisfaction that nothing else seems to, the idea that your work may inspire an unsuspecting audience. I also love working with textures and spaces and this medium allows you to explore and travel. I have had the great fortune of traveling with my art and projects and have met some amazing artists from around the world.” Ricky has painted on the streets of Istanbul, Morocco, Berlin, Basel, Barcelona, Amsterdam and even the Transkei.
“I like to work with portraiture and juxtapose realism with abstract surrealism using colors and untraditional techniques whether it’s working on canvas or site specific interventions. I still don’t feel like my work is where I would like it to be stylistically and have a few more years to go before I find my own signature. But that’s exciting, as an artist you should always evolve.”
Some Final Words
“Life and art is about practice, learning from the world, traveling , experiences and mostly looking within and learning from yourself and humbling yourself to allow for growth. This I believe is a true artist.”