Carroll Sockwell (1943-1992) was an African-American abstract artist from Washington, D.C. who emerged in the city’s art scene in the 1960s. While Sockwell had a troubled early life, he was encouraged to study art by Elinor Ulman, a foundational figure in the field of art therapy. At age 14 he entered the Corcoran School of Art, where he won a prize the following year.
At the age of seventeen, Sockwell moved to New York City where he met abstract expressionist artists such as Barnett Newman and Willem de Kooning. Sockwell returned to Washington four years later in 1974 when he got a solo show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Sockwell mingled in the arts scene at the time, working as a curator for the Barnett-Aden Gallery, the nation’s first African American privately owned gallery, and became friends with Corcoran curator Walter Hopps.
In his work, Sockwell engaged with both geometric and gestural abstraction, working more often in collage, charcoal, and pencil rather than painting. At a solo show at Harry Lunn Gallery in 1983, Washington Post critic Paul Richard called his work "elegant and anguished, somber and yet playful, rigorous yet free."
Sockwell also exhibited at Jefferson Place Gallery, Gallery K, Washington Project for the Arts, and outside of Washington at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Sockwell committed suicide in 1992, after battling alcoholism for much of his adult life.