Profile: Carroll Sockwell (1943-1992)

Carroll Sockwell was an African-American abstract artist from Washington, D.C. who emerged in the city’s art scene in the 1960s. Sockwell grew up in a segregated Washington and experienced a sort of troubled childhood, spending some of his teenage years at Saint Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital where he met Elinor Ulman, a noted art therapist and teacher at the Corcoran School of Art. At the age of seventeen, Sockwell moved to New York City where he was influenced by abstract expressionists as well as artists working in minimalism and conceptualism. Sockwell’s work, which has been described as delicate and intimate, with a hint of chaos, incorporates geometric and gestural abstract elements and often deals with imagery demonstrating contradictions or polar opposites. The majority of Sockwell’s oeuvre are not paintings, but rather collages, pencil, and charcoal stick drawings of muted colors – a stark contrast to the palettes of the Washington Color School artists of the time.

Sockwell returned to Washington and was just 31 years old in 1974 when he got his own show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. His works would later be exhibited at Jefferson Place Gallery, Gallery K, and outside of Washington at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. Sockwell tragically committed suicide in 1992, after battling alcoholism for much of his adult life.

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