LAUNCH LA is proud to present two new solo exhibitions, Before Present by William Wray and Houses by John Scane. At first glance little similarities exist between Wray’s raw streetscapes and Scane’s non-objective patchwork arrangements, yet at their roots, both bodies of work are quite similar: both artists were trained and worked in the figurative arts and eschew more and more of these rules for the freedom inherent in abstraction. Through their processes both artists find experiences and memories that inspire them and then work to trim away as much extraneous visual detail as possible from these without destroying their substance, until what remains is a purer communication – an idea compressed into the simplicity of shape and shade.
Before Present captures the haphazard and gritty beauty of California’s urban sprawl, grasping just the right lighting and vantage point for each scene. No subject is too humble: whether it be a dilapidated gas station, the gleam of a sodium streetlight in the brash angles of an all-American ’80s muscle car, or an unadorned side view of a ’60s suburban home, Wray taps into each subject and distils their aesthetic merits and emotional resonances into a powerful and heady essence. A sense of fondness permeates, a sense of Wray’s appreciation and even fondness for these bedraggled places.
This alchemical process which transforms the commonplace into the extraordinary is mirrored in Wray’s technique: “Using a utilitarian working-man’s aesthetic inspired by my subjects, I paint on wood panels from home depot and use cheap plastic brushes from the hardware section of Ralph’s to prevent the refined rendering that using a sable brush encourages.” Breaking his subjects down into abstract shapes, Wray strives for a perfect balance of “realistic abstraction” – viewers can identify the scenes and objects, yet a strange haziness dominates his works, blurring edges and the delineations between shapes. Stepping closer exaggerates this effect, each object drifts apart like water in oil into strangely satisfying smears of color and texture. As is the case with memories, with prolonged contemplation the detail in Wray’s paintings fades into vague impression which against the odds bear all the weight of feelings and significance.
After a nomadic childhood traveling the world William Wray began working in the animation business as a teenager, eventually enrolling in The Art Students League in New York to study fine art in the late eighties. Not empathetic to the conceptual art world all around him in Soho, William went back to work in the commercial field. He is best known for his painting style on the Ren and Stimpy Show, comic books and his work in Mad Magazine.
After a concentrated series of oil painting workshops over the last ten years and a maturing reformation of his realistic art style into a more abstraction based approach, William has turned his attention to documenting the decay of the urban environments in California which he grew up with – the focus of his 2015 Launch LA show ‘Before Present’.
William’s works are represented in several galleries in California and have been shown around the world, receiving numerous awards from painting clubs, museums and art contests. He has four monographs of his work and a fifth one titled: Fortress Los Angeles is coming out this spring. A museum show for the Carnegie Museum in Oxnard is scheduled for 2015.
As a city boy I find more pleasure in painting an old 7-11 rather than the timeless beauty of nature.
In my working process, I break my subjects down into abstract shapes, striving for a perfect balance of “realistic abstraction” that at its best is at once modern and traditional. Using a utilitarian working-man’s esthetic inspired by my subjects, I paint on wood panels from Home Depot and use cheap plastic brushes from the hardware section of Ralph’s to prevent the effete rendering that using a sable bush encourages.
I have always believed the best abstract artists were grounded in the classic skills that they de-constructed in their painting process to find their best abstract work. I’ve hammered my way thru a thousand confused paintings to find the truth of that theory and I am confident the current work has finally coalesced into my artistic identity.