Cleve Gray (American, 1918-2004), Dispersal of the Square #9, 2003, mixed media on canvas, 52 x 60 inches. Courtesy Estate of the Artist
Cleve Gray (American, 1918-2004), Conjunction #1 (The Egg), 1975, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 32 inches. Collection Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, New York
Cleve Gray (American, 1918-2004), Untitled, 2004, mixed media on canvas, 80 x 55 inches. Courtesy Estate of the Artist
The Boca Raton Museum of Art delves into the realm of man and nature with the opening of the comprehensive exhibition Cleve Gray: Man and Nature, opening March 17, 2009. The exhibition will run through May 31, 2009
This extensive retrospective of noted American painter Cleve Gray (1918-2004) presents more than 32 abstract paintings completed between 1975 and 2004. Viewers can experience the full evolution of Gray’s work as he developed his signature gestural, color-based abstraction.
Gray’s style was first influenced by Abstract Expressionism, and later drew influence and inspiration from such sources as Chinese calligraphy, Hawaiian waterfalls and Greek sculpture. A working artist until the end, Gray was still creating monumental canvasses at the age of 86, when he passed away in 2004. His work has been recognized as a reflection of the natural world and human response to what is experienced in that world. “Throughout this evolution, man and nature struggle for dominance; Gray treads the boundaries between painting conceived as evidence of the artist’s will and as evidence of his unwilled responses to the natural world, between painting as a product of ‘culture’ and as an equivalent for forces beyond our control,” wrote Karen Wilkin, curator for the show, in her exhibition catalogue.
As a student at Princeton in the 1930s, Gray received formal training in art and archeology and wrote his thesis on Chinese landscape painting. After graduating from Princeton, he joined the Army. As a soldier in post-World War II Paris, Gray began informal studies with the French artist André Lhote and studied cubism as a student of Jacques Villon, brother of Marcel Duchamp. Inspired in the 1960s by artists like Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko and Helen Frankenthaler, Gray began to produce large paintings using a variety of application methods – pouring, staining, sponging and other nontraditional techniques – to create compositions combining expanses of pure color and spontaneous calligraphic gestures.
Cleve Gray: Man and Nature includes works from public and private collections and has been curated by Karen Wilkin, art historian and critic. The exhibition was organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, and was funded, in part, by The New York State Council for the Arts, a State agency; the Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art; and the Westchester Arts Council.