René Ricard, an influential poet, painter, art critic and actor in Andy Warhol’s films, has died, Rolling Stone has learned. His age was estimated to be 67.
In his lengthy, acclaimed career, Ricard was both a commenter on and participant in some of the most seminal artistic moments of New York City’s vibrant scene. Ricard came to prominence in the late Sixties as a poet; by 1970, he had been published in The Paris Review and Angel Hair. In the Seventies and Eighties, his articles for ArtForum magazine helped launch the careers of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Julian Schnabel and Francesco Clemente. He began developing his poetry into paintings in the Eighties. One such work, Shadows Collide With People, graced the cover of former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante’s solo album of the same name.
Ricard was born in Acushnet, Massachusetts, in 1946 and moved to New York City at age 18. He recalled the first time he ever saw a Warhol painting at a Boston art gallery for Interview magazine: “I completely planned out my life looking at that painting.” Upon meeting the pop artist and his protégée, Edie Sedgwick, Ricard appeared in the 1965 film Kitchen, in which he washed dishes. The following year, he starred in Warhol’s Chelsea Girls, which was shot at Manhattan’s famous Hotel Chelsea, where Ricard lived and would continue to reside for the next four decades. Later, he played Warhol in Warhol’s own Andy Warhol Story in 1967. “It’s a black-and-white movie, so you better wear black and white,” Ricard recalled Warhol had told him.
Throughout the Seventies, several prominent magazines published Ricard’s poetry. In 1979, the DIA Foundation put out his first poetry anthology, René Ricard 1979 – 1980, which was modeled after the Tiffany Christmas catalog, right down to its turquoise coloring. Francesco Clemente would later publish another anthology, God With Revolver, in 1990, which focused on Ricard’s paintings of poems. Another book, 1999’s Love Poems, anthologized his poetry with illustrations by Robert Hawkins.
Ricard’s cover stories for ArtForum proved to be especially influential in the 1980s. His 1981 article, “The Radiant Child,” was instrumental in attracting attention to Jean-Michel Basquiat early in the artist’s career. In artist Julian Schnabel’s 1996 biopic Basquiat, actor Michael Wincott played Ricard (Basquiat and Warhol were portrayed by Jeffery Wright and David Bowie, respectively). Ricard himself would continue to act intermittently, beginning with the 1980 film Underground U.S.A., appearing most recently in the 2009 movie You Won’t Miss Me, which costarred Stella Schnabel.
In his later years, Ricard immersed himself in turning his poems into artwork, sometimes painting over others’ works with his own words. Around the time of his death, the artist was working on large-scale paintings, which stretched up to eight feet tall with imagery and text. Vito Schnabel held a Ricard exhibition in 2012, titled “New Paintings and Not So New,” which focused on works dating back a decade.