Jimmy Wright has lived and worked in New York since the early 1970s. After growing up in rural Kentucky, Wright moved to Chicago to study at the Art Institute of Chicago where he became close friends with members of The False Image group, including Philip Hanson, Christina Ramberg and Roger Brown. In 1969, he moved to Carbondale to attend graduate school at Southern Illinois University. Examples of his work during this period include the gorgeous graphite drawing, Motel (1972), that has a refined, but sarcastic or ironic gloss, and larger acrylics such as Main Street (1972), a sweet slightly somber landscape of a Midwest Street on a rainy even. In 1974 he moved to New York where he documented the flourishing queer landscape of gay bathhouses and bars throughout Manhattan; this post-Stonewall and pre-AIDS epidemic moment is captured in works like Max’s Kansas City (1974) and drawings of scenes at Club 82 and the Anvil. By the early 1980s, Wright was painting images that directly confronted the complexities of his southern childhood; this can be seen in Baptism at Rives, Baptism at Pilot Oak, and Snake Service (all 1980) which deal slyly with the homoeroticism of certain religious rituals. A special project in the late 1980s - early 1990s led to a group of softer, more emotionally vulnerable monoprints (some compiled into artist-books) that explored his grandmother’s small hometown in Tennessee. With the diagnosis of his partner with AIDS in 1988, Wright began work on his first sunflower, a magnificently huge and heavily impastoed oil, dominated by browns and tans. This became the subject matter for a series of larger oil paintings and pastel drawings, which have earned Wright an international reputation.
Recent solo exhibitions include Down Home at Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago (on view from March 17-April 29, 2023); Flowers for Ken at Fierman, NY and LA 73 – NY 74 at M&B Gallery, Los Angeles. His work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Speed Art Museum, KY; the Center for Book and Paper Arts, Columbia College, Chicago; The Springfield Art Museum, MO, among other institutions. His most recent monograph, Jimmy Wright: Bathhouse, Meatpacking District and the Dream Cards: New York Underground 1973-90, was published in 2016. In 2018 he was named Academician of the National Academy of Design.