Richard Swift’s art has a place in an American lineage of primal, urgent outsider art that can be traced from Walt Whitman to Kerouac, from Bo Diddley to Captain Beefheart, from Bill Traylor to Royal Robertson. It is the kind of art that can only come to pass when the rest of the world is deep into REM and old death comes creeping in at a man from the shadows.
And only his humor, his vinyl collection, his libations and his canvas — whatever his canvas may be — are there to keep him from crossing that oh-so-thin and fragile line into madness. If you should see themes and reoccurring characters in Swift’s black ink pieces, it’s likely these are the themes and characters that kept him just to this side of that line. It is said that the black ink used in Swift’s pieces is the blackest available on the world market — a compound of cattle bones, tar and soot that dates back to the heyday of the industrial revolution. It is better you just look deep into it now and just get used to it.