Barbados-born American contemporary artist Ashley Bickerton has died at the age of 63.
Bali-based Bickerton’s work grew to prominence in the 1980s, and he is widely named as a contributor to the Neo-Geo movement – or Neo-Geometric Conceptualism – which first arose in New York. Encompassing artists including Peter Halley, Jeff Koons and Meyer Vaisman, the movement commented on social isolation and critiqued consumerism, commercialisation, and society in the late-1900s.
Though diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2021, Bickerton persevered with his creative pursuits. ‘Life is to be lived and got on with, and I’m busy – too busy – for (pity),’ he told writer Michael Slenske in an interview last year. In 2023, Bickerton’s work will be presented at Gagosian New York, his first solo show with the gallery.
Bickerton's style took on influences from pop art, op art and minimalism while challenging structural discourses and questioning what the movement referred to as the ‘geometricisation of modern life’. Within the movement, his works drew attention from an early-career Damien Hirst, who recalls not knowing ‘whether he was a painter or sculptor’, and pointing to the indefinable nature of Bickerton’s ever-evolving creative identity. ‘I do not want to be a slave to a signature identifying brand look,’ he explained last year.
In 1993 Bickerton relocated from New York to Bali, and with his new home came new expressions; the abstraction in his work made way for confrontational depictions of the human form.
His oversized sculptures took the form of skin, bodies bound by rope, and twisting arcs of necks housing contorted faces. His years away from the creative scene he was so heavily involved in caused his work to evolve within Neo-Geo towards surrealism.
In recent years, Bickerton’s work took on a more dystopian surrealism, while maintaining his potent comments on consumerism and human civilisation. In October 2022, he presented works in Paris alongside Nathaniel Mary Quinn and Brice Marden at Paris+ par Art Basel, and his work has been shown at galleries in New York, LA and Singapore throughout 2022, including the notable exhibition ‘Seascapes at the End of History’ at Lehmann Maupin New York. These complex exhibitions, often combining sculpture, relief, painting and assemblage, brought dynamism and vibrancy to their audiences, much like the legacy Ashley Bickerton will leave behind.
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Martha Elliott is the Junior Digital News Editor at Wallpaper*. After graduating from university she worked in arts-based behavioural therapy, then embarked on a career in journalism, joining Wallpaper* at the start of 2022. She reports on art, design and architecture, as well as covering regular news stories across all channels.
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