b.1992, United States
Oil on canvas
95 x 155 in.
Courtesy of Spinello Projects
Reginald O’Neal’s emotional oil paintings portray narrative scenes from his personal and collective experiences of growing up in the public housing projects of Overtown, a historically Black neighborhood in Miami.
Inspired by the world around him, O’Neal’s figurative still life canvas paintings are imbued with loving memories. He uses soft brushstrokes, deep shadows and a somber color palette to reflect on the complexities of the Black experience, communicating multiple layers of meaning while evoking a sense of beauty, loss and tenderness. Based on original autobiographical photos, these illustrated stories from everyday life in an urban Black neighborhood give viewers an intimate glimpse into a marginalized community.
The “sleeper hold” is a martial arts and wrestling chokehold enacted from behind that restricts blood flow and causes unconsciousness. Untitled, Sleeper was painted from a photo of two friends engaged in horseplay, but by using dark color and dominating shadows the painting has taken a threatening tone, completely altering the original meaning of the movements from the source image.
The artist intended a metaphor for the treatment of the black community in America: grabbing its people with a menacing choke, making it difficult for them to break free from systemic racism, racial prejudice, oppression and discrimination. "It seems in some ways we're still gasping for air," O’Neal says. (Miami New Times, 2021)