GREATER NEW YORK
MoMA PS1 Exhibition Catalog
By Michelle Yun, Department of Painting Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art
Traces of Randy Wray's Southern upbringing abound in his meticulously created paintings, sculptures, and installations, along with hints of the supernatural and the alien as well as of an age long passed. Describing his sculptures as "psychic architecture," he uses found objects as points of departure to create ghostly assemblages that can be seen alternately as organic and architectural. Tumors, polyps, and warts proliferate on the sculptures' surfaces; cobwebs signify the passing of time and decay, while also functioning as a structural motif. On a formal level, dichotomies between the representational and the abstract, the handmade and the computer-generated, are prevalent throughout Wray's work.
In the installation Moonshine Garden (2004-05) Wray resurrects the ghosts of the Confederacy, raising issues of classism and cross-cultural value systems while also exploring formalist notions of process and craft and their relationship to fine art. The work plays on the cottage industry of making homemade liquor, or moonshine, still found in poorer, rural areas of the South. Wray appropriates the shapes of antique homemade stills and transforms them into monochromatic totems alternately evoking shamanistic African and Oceanic fetishes and urban rooftop architecture. He puns on the idea of "spirit" by alluding not only to liquor but to ghostly apparitions from the Civil War. It has been said that much of the Civil War was fought on moonshine, and on the floor Wray lays a Confederate flag, pinned down by the stills. Inspired by the quilts of Gee's Bend, Alabama, the artist taught himself to sew and fashioned the flag as a quilt. There are many layers of meaning here, but the quilt may most directly suggest that a sleep of reason fell over the South during the Civil War, and during the era of slavery leading up to it. Wray seems to liken this sleep of reason to America's current political situation, and cites the downfall of the Confederacy as a cautionary tale for our present-day leaders to heed.
March 13 - September 26, 2005