Art In America, Hirsch
ART IN AMERICA
This spring Randy Wray's paintings and sculptures were on view in neighboring Chelsea galleries. At Derek Eller, Wray exhibited a group of seven medium-size canvases (all 2002) featuring broken webs, colored tangles and craggy silhouettes, as well as a grid of 15 paintings on paper from 2001 and one 1998 sculpture on a pedestal. A few doors down, in a group show at Feature, 20 of Wray's sculptures were displayed on a few tables, along with works by four other artists. Since details of Wray's sculptures often reappear in his paintings, these concurrent exhibitions were useful in gaining a comprehensive impression of his work.
For many artists, the pixelated line that is the hallmark of digital drawing programs has become as available a device as unmediated strokes of pen and ink. Wray wields this line effectively in his recent paintings, which are often based on photographs of his sculptures that he scans into the computer and digitally manipulates. The clunky polychromed wires and cords of the sculptures are transformed, in his two-dimensional works, into filigree designs that are sometimes quite delicately rendered yet always unmistakably digital in origin. Sometimes, Wray sprinkles the paintings with colored glitter or adds on other collage material. Burlesque, for instance, features scraps of paper printed with off-register red and green lines, creating an optical blur that the artist claims can be tamed with 3-D glasses (untested by this reviewer). In Episode, a hot-pink whiffle-ball wad of pixelated lines is supported by a brown form roughened by glitter and carborundum grit.
All the paintings have centralized, vaguely animal-like figures, delineated in digital filigree but held in loose frameworks of more traditional paint strokes that are in places reminiscent, on a decidedly nonheroic scale, of Abstract-Expressionist gesture. There's a nice fluidity between the gesture-and color-suffused grounds and the detailed, if nonspecific, figuration.
The sculptures are messier. Feature's display was a rough-and-tumble lot selected from 15 years of work, and ranging from a cement Cat (1988) decorated with pom-poms to some recent architectural pieces like Annex (2001), a rickety structure made of wooden craft sticks, wire, papier-mâché and sand. Painted slapdash and embedded with grit, Wray's sculptures can look--despite their often gaily-colored polychromy — grimy and even, in places, menacing. The dark Instrument (2002), with its malevolent hooked riser, reappears as a shadowy scaffold in a painting the artist calls Hangman. Interestingly, its reconstitution as a flat image serves to distance it, complicating the emotional load.
Faye Hirsch, January, 2003