Whether enacting an ancient Roman gladiatorial naval battle in a reflecting pool at the Queens Museum of Art or “invading” the New York Harbor with a remodeled Revolutionary-War submarine, Duke Riley recreates history to engage with the contemporary world. According to Riley, these performative interventions—in addition to the artist’s many drawings, prints, mosaics, and sculptures, and multimedia installations—address “the prospect of the residual but forgotten frontiers on the edge and inside overdeveloped urban areas, and their unsuspected autonomy.”
Moving to Brooklyn in 1997, the RISD- and Pratt-trained artist began his career as a tattoo-parlor owner and artist and teacher of mosaics and drawing at Oyster Arts, an art organization program in domestic-violence shelters. During this time, he threw illegal parties and clambakes in abandoned buildings on the waterfront, which became the foundation of his intervention work.
Riley has had 10 solo exhibitions and won numerous grants and scholarships, including the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painting and Sculptors Grant and the Creative Time Global Residency in Africa. He has also been awarded several commissions of public works in New York City.