NEW YORK TIMES
ART IN REVIEW
HEAVEN ON HIGH
By Ken Johnson
Randy Wray is a Jekyll-Hyde kind of artist. He makes crude semiabstract sculptures of plaster, papier-mâché and found materials, and he makes complex paintings based on those sculptures, marked by a sophisticated play with diverse systems of representation, abstraction and illusionism. The paintings are better in almost every way, but it seems they depend for their soul on the sculptures.
This show finds Mr. Wray focused on his three-dimensional work. The main event is an assortment of sculptures representing rustic moonshine-making equipment stills, plumbing, jugs and the like made mostly of white papier-mâché displayed on a large Confederate flag quilt that lies on the floor. The idea of a kind of hillbilly alchemy associated with a reactionary Southern conservatism that may haunt the Unite States electoral landscape is provocative. But the sculptural installation pales by comparison to a thematically related painting hanging nearby.
The painting depicts a rustic cross assembled from tree branches on a bare mountaintop, with the ghosts of Confederate flags flying in the stormy background. This image is complicated by organic abstract patterns painted over and incised into the paint layers, so that the Southern Gothic vision seems to emerge out of a kind of richly layered psychic mulch. If Mr. Wray needs to make primitive sculptures to arrive at such refined paintings, then so be it.
Published June 17, 2005