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Born in 1959 in New Orleans, Louisiana; died 2004 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Roy Anthony Ferdinand, Jr. grew up in New Orleans’ Gert Town neighborhood and attended Warren Easton Senior High School, but dropped out before graduating, and lived most of his life at or below the poverty line. He began drawing as a boy, but it wasn’t until his mid-twenties after he’d spent a few years running with a local street gang and then working as a mall security guard, that Ferdinand decided to dedicate his life to art. Without any formal training and using poster board and inexpensive art supplies purchased at his local K&B drug store, he drew fantasy and sci-fi figures. But his conversations in the late 1980s with New Orleans dealer Andy Antippas, whose Barristers Gallery was showing the work of several Southern self-taught artists, inspired the young man to make pictures of the daily life that surrounded him, including the brutal flare-ups of violence that defined New Orleans’ poorest neighborhoods. As he later reflected in an interview, “I realized then that there were hundreds of subjects all around me, the ‘black experience’…basically, our world.”

Before his death from cancer at forty-five, the world that Roy Ferdinand created through a body of more than two thousand works was made up of equal parts documentary and mythification, and earned him the nickname “Goya of the Ghetto.”

Ferdinand’s work has been increasingly collected and exhibited around the U.S., most notably in the 2008 Prospect.I New Orleans Triennial, where a selection of his drawings was organized by New York dealer Martina Batan (1958-2021). Batan’s later involvement with Ferdinand’s art was the subject of the documentary Missing People (2015) by David Shapiro. Ferdinand’s work is in the permanent collections of, among others, the New Orleans Museum of Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, AR), the Speed Museum (Louisville, KY), the Pérez Art Museum (Miami) and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art (New Orleans), which will present a survey exhibition of the artist’s work in 2023.

SOLO SHOWS

2021
Roy Ferdinand: Gert Town, Sixteenth Ward, New Orleans, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY

2002
In Your Fuckin’ Face, Barrister’s Gallery, New Orleans, LA

1999
Urban Realism, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans, LA

GROUP SHOWS

2021
What I Know: Gifts from Gordon W. Bailey, Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, Biloxi, MS

2019
What Carried Us Over: Gifts from Gordon W. Bailey, Perez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL

2018
The Souls of Black Folk, Wichita Falls Museum of Art, Wichita Falls, TX

2017
A New World in My View: Gifts from Gordon W. Bailey, Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY

2015
Our Faith Affirmed: Works from the Gordon W. Bailey Collection, The University of Mississippi Museum of Art, Oxford, MS

2013
Soul Stirring: African American Self-taught Artists From the South, curated by Gordon W. Bailey, California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA
When You’re Lost, Everything’s A Sign: Self-Taught Art from The House of Blues, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA

2011
The World According to New Orleans, curated by Dan Cameron, Ballroom Marfa, Marfa, TX
Simply Iconic, curated by Gordon W. Bailey, La Luz de Jesus Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

2008
Prospect.1, curated by Dan Cameron, New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA

2007
Unsung, curated by Dan Cameron, Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, New York, NY
Mixed Signals, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York, NY

2005
Hydriotaphia: New Orleans Artists Design Their Own Funeral Urns, Barrister’s Gallery, New Orleans, LA 

2004
Not-Your-Mama’s-Jazz-Fest-Poster, Barrister’s Gallery, New Orleans, LA
The Souls of Black Folk: Selections of African American Folk Art from the Museum’s Permanent Collection, Museum of African American Life and Culture, Dallas, TX

2002
High on Life: Transcending Addiction, curated by Tom Patterson, American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, MD

2001
Triennial Exhibition, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA
Singular Visions: Folk Art from Charlottesville Collections, curated by Suzanne Foley, University of Virginia Art Museum, Charlottesville, VA
Exploring Assemblage in New Orleans, Barrister’s Gallery, New Orleans, LA

COLLECTIONS

Algiers Folk Art Zone & Blues Museum, New Orleans, LA
American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY
California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR
The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
International House of Blues Foundation, Los Angeles, CA
Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA
Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, Biloxi, MS
Museum of African American Life and Culture, Dallas, TX
The New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA
Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Miami, FL
Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY

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