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Josh Beckett examines relationships in ‘Honest Intentions’

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Josh Beckett examines relationships in ‘Honest Intentions’
Artwork by Josh Beckett. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

At the Montserrat College of Art’s 301 Frame Gallery, artist Josh Beckett explores romantic relationship dynamics in “Josh Beckett: Honest Intentions,” running through Dec. 10. The exhibition features two large canvas murals facing the street and an accompanying series of paintings inside the gallery. In bold colors and dramatic scenes, Beckett examines how contemporary media has impacted the way we look at love.

“There are a lot of relationship gurus … constantly bombarding people with positive affirmations — you should love yourself, you should value yourself, you shouldn’t accept this, this is a red flag,” says Beckett. “I think that that is actively warping people’s perceptions of what their relationship should be like, instead of allowing people to naturally discover that on their own.”

Artwork by Josh Beckett. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

What’s resulted from these social media advice trends is the directive to drop anyone and any relationship that doesn’t specifically conform to a vision of what love should look like. Beckett’s work embodies the emotional turmoil that comes with sifting through this information and trying to decipher what’s truthful and productive and what isn’t. In one of the external murals, Beckett depicts a young man drowning in a sea of body parts. While he tries to find something deeper to hold onto, he’s crushed by the weight of performativity.

Beckett’s distinctive style comes from his early interactions with design. “My first foray into art was video game covers and comic books and cartoons and anime. All these very high-action, high-contrast, punchy-colors type things,” says Beckett. As he grew into his artistic practice, Beckett began to explore profound and personal themes in this style. His goal is to delve into similar themes of the human experience that you might find in the work of the Old Masters, but through the lens of childlike wonder that comes with his vibrant aesthetic.

Artwork by Josh Beckett. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

Coming to terms with his style was a challenge for Beckett. “A lot of times as a Black artist, especially as a Black man, there’s an unsaid pressure for your work to conform to certain standards and practices,” he says. That unspoken rule says that work can either be traumatic and dark, or toothless and bubbly, but not both.

Beckett hopes that in making work that is both stylistically bright and thematically thoughtful, he can provide an example for the next generation of artists of color. He says, “I wanted to expand the definition of what it means and what it looks like to
be a Black artist.”