Art and the City – August 2017

Artist Profile: Rick Bach

“Bigboi” (detail, Mad Mex) enamel on aluminum, 72”x96,” by Rick Bach. Photo: Adam Milliron

Art explodes from Rick Bach like solar flares, seemingly at the speed of light.

It started at birth. In Pittsburgh. His father owned an auto body shop and Rick was spray painting on metal when other kids were using Crayons. He had his own air-brushing business by sixth grade. “It’s where I really learned to draw.” Art was not only a passion, but a visual platform for ideas and observations. It was about energy.

Rick’s work has an unmistakable look – the human and almost human forms are looking back at you … with questions? … comments? … accusations? Maybe all of that; it’s up to you to figure it out. Curiously, that challenge can make you unaware of the rich patterns, colors, and contrasts that are so much a part of the puzzle.

Behind the raw energy of it all is complete control. In his mid-twenties, Rick went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. The classes expanded his knowledge but didn’t detour his vision – the need to communicate with the world through any means available.

Today, he does everything including album covers and logos. He paints on aluminum plates and uses acrylics on paper. His architectural metal work includes furniture and light fixtures for bars. Maybe the most imposing and playful works are his huge enameled steel sculptures. They can stand 10 to 15 feet high and weigh close to a half-ton.

Not only that, Rick does murals. Check out Honeysuckle at 19th and M streets NW. You’re met at the door with a melange of painted metal cutouts – faces and dancing humanlike forms. They escort you down to the restaurant. The enigmatic skull-forms that float in the ceiling somehow become welcoming … cozy. Yeah, it’s funky … sophisticated funk. Only the compulsions, complexities, and compassions of an explosive, deep, caring artist can bring you these mysteriously seductive forms and patterns.

Rick Bach has had one-man shows, significant awards, and many commissions. You can see his work at Coming next April, he will have an inside/outside show at Studio A in Georgetown.

“Honeysuckle,” (detail) enamel on aluminum, 32’x12’, by Rick Bach.
Photo: Drew Kennedy

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art
There are any number of ways and reasons to make art. It can be prim and decorative. It can soar with dramatic flourish. Some art is emotionally confrontational. Some painters excite with color that surprises and delights. Art can be any of that without a distinct subject. We call it “abstract.”

Some art is fiercely personal. Powerful. It comes from the inside. You can find many such individuals throughout the history of art, but more modern examples are Vincent van Gogh or Paul Gauguin, Frida Kahlo and local painter Matt Sesow.

Rick Bach is one of those people. There is no ready-made category for Rick. He’s explosive. So is his art. It invades your awareness, your sensibilities. It screams, “I’m here, baby. I’ve got something that needs saying. Now pay attention.” And you do.

But here’s the thing. It’s not threatening. It welcomes inquiry, even questions. And whatever form it takes … human, horse, dog, monkey … it’s alive, it thinks, but it’s not thinking what you think it’s thinking. That’s what brings you to a stop. Even if words are written on the work, it’s not clear what they mean.

These are not just forms – pictures of weird things – they are platforms for ideas, runways, places from which to take off and fly to another level. Some tell stories. Some are stories.

Rick works out of a chaotic studio in a warehouse on Capitol Hill, where he spray paints on metals, brushes acrylic on paper, or paints on wood, adding gunpowder to burn the images for raw power. Whatever he uses, it’s going to be a fiercely personal statement.

This Month in Local Galleries

“Goodhead,” steel,
70”x60,” by Rick Bach.
Photo: Adam Milliron

“Annual Juried Exhibit”
Hill Center Galleries
Old Naval Hospital
921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
―Oct. 1
The regional juried exhibition runs through August, and the Hill Center Galleries are filled with delightful art of all descriptions and media. Over 100 artists from DC, Virginia, and Maryland have been selected by the juror, Claude L. Elliott, curator and arts consultant. His goal was to “create a compelling and exciting exhibition that features as many works as space allows.”

Cash prizes of $1,000, $750, and $500 and five honorable mentions have been awarded. See the show and see if your personal selections would be the same as the curator’s.

Summer Exhibition
Capitol Hill Art League
545 Seventh St. SE
—Aug. 15
The Capitol Hill Art League’s summer exhibition presents selected works by local CHAL members. Also, solo shows will run to Aug. 15 in the CHAW Gallery.

Foundry Gallery
2118 Eighth St. NW
Aug. 2-27
Opening reception: Sat., Aug. 5, 5:00-8:00 p.m.
Artists’ talk: Sun., Aug. 20, 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Fierce Sonia and Ric Garcia celebrate “superheroes, princesses, damsels in distress and empowered queens, all portrayed in contemporary and re-imagined ways.”

Fierce Sonia loves legends and folk tales with universal appeal, but she especially champions female superheroes. She works primarily in a series. It could be queens or mermaids, or maybe childhood memories.

Ric Garcia sees his use of images as a meditation on identity. He says, “I infuse my art with references to various myths, focusing on hero worship, literary works, Latino and gender cultures, creating images about Americana filtered by my bi-cultural experience.”

The show is juried by Jack Rasmussen, director and curator of the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. He will speak at the opening and moderate the artists’ talk.

A Capitol Hill artist and writer, Jim Magner can be reached at His award-winning book, “A Haunting Beauty,” can be acquired through