Ed Welch’s Signs of the Times Past

A self-taught artist, 93-year-old Ed Welch started out picking peanuts and cotton in North Carolina, but in time he learned how to read, studied graphic arts, and became a sign painter. Upon retirement, he began combining an interest in African American history with his sign-making abilities to fashion do-it-yourself, collaged, poster-like artworks that construct fascinating biographic portrayals of important political figures, musicians, sports heroes, and events from the past century.

Working in obscurity until a few years ago, Welch’s portraits of Ray Charles, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, W.E.B. DuBois, and other African American champions are painted on found cardboard and wood and hand-lettered with enamel and shiny contact paper. Stickers and typewritten texts sometimes get thrown into the mix and he often just signs the work with one of mailing labels. A true original, Welch is considered an important new find by folk art aficionados.

The first New York showing of Ed Welch’s work is on view at Ricco/Maresca Gallery through October 9.

Click through below for a gallery of images.

Ed Welch, Ray Charles, n.d. (1990 – 2010), Mixed media on board, 22 x 28 inches, Photo: Michael Korol, Courtesy Ricco/Maresca Gallery