Jim Roche

the artist





Jim Roche has had a major impact on the international art scene since he graduated from the University of Dallas in 1970. He has been consistently outspoken, outrageous, and fearless in his drive to confront the hypocrisy and social injustice of our society. Extremely opposed to a “classed” society, he has aligned himself with the downtrodden, disenfranchised and working class populations. Although his “meteoric success” brought him offers of studios in New York, he has chosen to live in Florida, and has a devotion to the down-home, back-swamp way of life. He has maintained a very real existence and personality, and produced an absolutely amazing amount of really good, really tough, and really beautiful artwork throughout his career. He has the energy and devotion to go all the way in everything he does. From the full-scale installations made of significant series of found objects relating to nature, the environment, his native-American roots, and kitsch/pop culture to the hand worked wooden sculptural objects and wonderful, simple honest drawings in kaleidoscope colors or black and white, Roche was an artist of this decade 30 years ago. Materials drive him, and his passion is organic and straightforward.

Roche is probably best known for “The Bicentennial Welfare Cadillac,” a 1950 sedan, modified and decorated, in 1976. It won him international acclaim. He was included in a Whitney Annual as early as the 1960’s, and has had a solo show there with the infamous Marcia Tucker as Curator. In the 1970’s Roche became involved in performance and other experimental art forms. He has worked in media across the board, and always addresses real, earthy human issues. The “Motorcycle Maps” are autobiographical and explore an important part of Roche’s life; one that is full of both joy and pain. From winning major races to a serious motorcycle accident, Roche has participated in this popular sport with the same gusto as with his art. In the drawings, we see the two facets coming together.


The University Galleries will present two simultaneous exhibitions by Florida artist and “native son,” Jim Roche in the Fall of 2006. “Sign Times” is a major piece created by Roche in 1991. It has only been shown in its entirety in two other locations, in Montana and North Carolina. It is a popular culture statement, and also points to environmental issues, advertising, and history. The drawing exhibition in Focus Gallery, “Motorcycle Maps,” comprised of some of the artist’s most recent work, is very current in terms of the movement toward “sense of place,” and is quite different from the large installation. The drawings are very much about mark-making and handmade process; graphite on paper. The sign piece is loud, colorful, and made of metal, machine manufactured pieces. Although in no way do these two exhibitions summarize the enormous oeuvre of this artist, they do in some ways serve as bookends to his overall body of work.



the artist