Rosalind Letcher, "The Bachelors of South New Jersey got together to do a TAKE OFF on Rock and Roll in 1965," not dated. Acrylic on board, framed, 36” x 49.” COURTESY ROSALIND LETCHER AND KEYES ART
Rosalind Letcher “1963 Birmingham Alabama - Carol Kirby, Gail Pugh and Tollese Harris - From the Birmingham Rhythm Band,” not dated. Acrylic on board, framed 47.75” x 36.” COURTESY ROSALIND LETCHER AND KEYES ART
Rosalind Letcher “You shall go to the Moon, West Virginia (1950s),” not dated, 36” x 36.” COURTESY ROSALIND LETCHER AND KEYES ART
The paintings of Rosalind Letcher will be on view in “You Shall Go to the Moon,” an exhibition running June 3 to June 9 at Keyes Art in Sag Harbor. The show opens with a reception on Saturday, June 3, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Whether creating imagery of school pageants, trick-or-treaters, family Christmas parties, dance recitals in fancy dress, boy bands of the 1960s, beach scenes, ice skating teenagers, and a high school homecoming king and queen — Rosalind Letcher is a singular painter of childhood joy. Animated by her warm chromatic palette and glossy surfaces, Letcher has spent a lifetime immortalizing her memories of growing up amid a thriving community.
With painterly alchemy, Letcher is able to crystalize the fleeting emotions that emanate from the rituals and rites of passage that many kids of the baby boom generation experienced, growing up after World War II. Her paintings are often annotated on their backs, with specific dates and events that inspired each work — not unlike a family scrapbook. Yet with her deft painterly skills and emotive renderings, these scenes are committed to posterity, representing a near-utopic vision of growing up Black in America.
From the mid-1970s onwards, Letcher forged a unique style of narrative figuration that emerged parallel with artists like Faith Ringgold who similarly merged civil rights activism, education and the power of storytelling into the substance of their art. Letcher’s work has prefigured the current generation of contemporary American artists of color whose work similarly focuses on scenes of Black joy. Derrick Adams, Mickalene Thomas, Amy Sherold, and Danielle McKinney are great examples of living artists who have inherited Letcher’s DNA through optimistic and visually gratifying explorations of everyday life.
Rosalind Letcher was one of the key members of a vibrant group of Black artists called the Eastville Artists Association based in Sag Harbor — a community drawn together by their social ties rather than an aesthetic program. “Africa, the Orient, European Expressionism, Cubism blend here — yet above all, American individualism is foremost.” The curator of Eastville Artists Association exhibition at Guild Hall in 1979 made this astute proclamation in her introduction to a groundbreaking show of Letcher and her peers’ work. Since receiving her professional artistic training at New York University and City College, Letcher forged a singular approach to figurative painting that draws upon her childhood memories.
This exhibition at Keyes Art will be her first public exhibition in 20 years that will foreground her recently rediscovered oeuvre. Rosalind Letcher’s work will also be featured in the group exhibition “Pictures Girls Make: Portraitures” at Blum & Poe Los Angeles, curated by Alison M. Gingeras, opening September 9, 2023.
Keyes Art is at 45 Main Street at The American Hotel in Sag Harbor. For more information, contact juliekeyesart.com.
One fine body…