Tarleton Blackwell has established himself as one of the leading visual interpreters of the rural South. In his celebrated Hog Series, begun nearly twenty years ago and now consisting of over two hundred and fifty works, Blackwell explores the rich iconography of the region, incorporating elements of art history, children’s tales, persistent stereotypes and even commercial imagery. The South Carolina native not only populates his visual world with hogs, opossums, wolves, pit bulls and cats but also with images inspired by his experience as an art teacher and as a devoted fan of the seventeenth century Spanish School of painting. Much of the allure of Blackwell’s work rests in his complex, dense, and often ambiguous imagery that plays as part allegory, part fairytale, and part social commentary. Blackwell creates a complete topography of the rural South, grounded in his experience but overlaid with historical and literary musings.
Blackwell is often cited as being one of the preeminent members of a group of younger African American contemporary artists whose work plays a critical role in the current influx of this genre into the mainstream. He has been the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 1994 Southern Arts Federation/ National Endowment for the Arts Regional Fellowship in Painting. Blackwell has been named an “Outstanding Young Man of America” and an “Outstanding Professional South Carolinian in the Field of Art”. Blackwell’s work has been displayed in over 350 exhibitions and is included in a number of collections including the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, N.C.; Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, S.C.; Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ga.; and the Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, S.C.