Reynolds Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of an exhibition of recent paintings by Ray Kass entitled Oil and Water. The exhibition opens with a reception for the artist on Friday, November 6 and continues through December 23, 2015.
For over thirty years, Ray Kass has derived his muse from nature—the landscape and the garden—and his newest works invoke the same elemental urge to explore the essence of the natural world. Kass’s paintings in Oil and Water convey the spiritual and conceptual tendency of nature, inspired by the artist’s travels and surroundings. Layering washes of water media, oil emulsion, dry pigment, and smoke, Kass forms bold yet abstracted floral and arboreal imagery. The rag paper surface, covered with shaved beeswax, lends to a soft aesthetic that reflects the natural elements found within the paintings’ composition. In a review of Kass’s 2012 joint exhibition with Ron Johnson at Reynolds Gallery, critic Dinah Ryan states, “Kass’s paintings function more like dissipating clouds, lapping water, or shifting leaves through which things are barely perceptible...Fields of muted color cascade and overlap, modulating from one hue to the next, as patterns and fluid marks slip between them with the elasticity, purpose, and enigma of smoke signals.”
Kass has been developing this series of paintings for multiple years, perfecting and expanding upon his process. His previous work began as abstracted, scribble-like paintings en plein air, a direct response to nature. However, it was once Kass returned to his studio that he noticed the continuity of systematic shapes and a sense of pattern in these drawings. Progressing this process, he transformed the geometric, symbolic patterns to compose schematic abstractions rendering landscapes and his environment.
Through the years, Kass has developed inventive methods for producing his paintings that are based in postmodern ideals: chance operations and indeterminacy. The ground of his paintings is created in one of two manners: smoking or staining. Kass developed the technique for smoking paper in the late 1980’s while working with the highly influential composer and artist John Cage. In this method, Kass lays wet paper over a fire- the marks and lines left by the smoke cannot be controlled, and thus are random and determined by nature. To stain the paper, Kass pours puddles of medium and pigment over paper, some of which pools and leaves gradients of color and designs once the medium dries. Kass explains “Water has played an essential role in my developing artwork for many years, both strategically and as a source of content or subject. I would like to achieve the dynamic mirror-like transparency and reflectivity on the surface of my paintings that we experience when we look across water. The light that emanates from a mirror reveals a changing, iridescent imagery; it is a revelation of process replete with illuminating layers.”
In addition to being recognized nationally as a painter, Kass is also a highly regarded writer and educator. He lives and works in Christiansburg, Virginia and is a Professor Emeritus of Art at Virginia Tech. Kass founded and directs the Mountain Lake Workshop, a collaborative art project drawing on the customs and environmental resources of the New River Valley and Appalachian region. He received his MFA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Painting.
Kass is represented not only by Reynolds Gallery, but also by Garvey/Simon: ART ACCESS in NYC. His paintings have been widely exhibited at Allan Stone Gallery, A.V.C Contemporary Arts Gallery, Zone: Chelsea Center for the Arts, Baumgartner Gallery, ir77 Contemporary Art, New York, NY; Japan Art Forum, Kyoto; Awa No Sato Cultural Pavillion, Shikoku, Japan; Art Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke, VA; Staniar Gallery at Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA; Boston College, Brookline, MA; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; Anderson Gallery of VCU, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, both, Richmond, Virginia. He is the recipient of a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship and an Individual Artist’s Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Kass’s work is in the collections of the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL; Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, VA; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC; University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA; Boston Public Library, Boston, MA; Phizer Corporation, the Estate of Willem de Kooning, the Estate of Merce Cunningham and John Cage, all, New York, NY; and Medical College of Virginia, Altria Group, SunTrust, Ethyl Corporation, Markel Corporation, all, Richmond, Virginia.