Duke Riley received his BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and his MFA from Pratt Institute. Riley is fascinated by maritime history and events around urban waterways. His signature style interweaves historical and contemporary events with elements of fiction and myth to create allegorical histories. His re-imagined narratives comment on a range of issues from the cultural impact of over development and environmental destruction of waterfront communities to contradictions within political ideologies and the role of the artist in society.
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My work addresses the prospect of residual but forgotten unclaimed frontiers on the edge and inside overdeveloped urban areas, and their unsuspected autonomy. I am interested in the struggle of marginal peoples to sustain independent spaces within all-encompassing societies, the tension between individual and collective behavior, the conflict with institutional power. I pursue an alternative view of hidden borderlands and their inhabitants through drawing, printmaking, mosaic, sculpture, performative interventions, and video structured as complex multimedia installations.
I often work in the tradition of field naturalists, seeking and gathering data, artifacts, and specimens outdoors, transporting them inside for closer observation and study, displaying them in museum-like diorama settings. I combine populist myths and reinvented historical obscurities with contemporary social dilemmas, connecting past and present, drawing attention to unsolved issues. Throughout my projects I profile the space where water meets the land, traditionally marking the periphery of urban society, what lies beyond rigid moral constructs, a sense of danger and possibility.