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Indepth Arts News:

"Tony Gray: The New Black is Black"
2003-07-10 until 2003-08-10
Atlanta College of Art, Woodruff Arts Center
Atlanta, GA, USA United States of America

Atlanta College of Art Gallery is pleased to present the work of New York-based African-American artist Tony Gray, for the first time in the Southeast. The New Black is Black includes selections from Gray’s "Panthers," "Black Fairy" and "Mermaid" series, works on paper — painting, drawing and collage — that critique matters of race, gender and history. In the "Panthers" series, for example, Gray layers materials that include drawings, photographs, print-reproductions and pop culture ephemera on op-design wallpaper.

Starring the resplendently Afro-ed Panthers in their bell-bottomed glory, the collages capture the flair and un-self-conscious enthusiasm of teen bedroom walls — the homemade stage-set of American adolescence — circa 1973. Patterning nostalgia and critique equally, the images effect a dialogue on expectations both historical and contemporary about race, representation and identity.

Attuned to the semiotics of race and fashion, Gray’s painted and collaged "Black Fairy" series contrasts images of fairies — in fancy get-ups from the 1960s and ‘70s — with faceless slave figures who lurk like small ghosts in the background. Disarmingly simple and colorful, the fairies are radicalized beyond their surface fabulousness by the contrast, speaking to black middle-class aspirations and the history that informs it.

In the "Mermaid" series, rendered in colored pencil and paint on wood panels, Gray’s stylized mermaids and –men unfurl against translucent, shimmering surfaces. As with the fairies, Gray draws the mer-figures on paper, cuts them out and collages them onto painted backdrops. In both cases, black bodies complicate fairy-tale contexts, and figures of the childhood imagination come alive again with social and cultural vigor. The work is simultaneously playful and critical, modest and accomplished, smart and disarming. Critic bell hooks writes that "Gray’s work interrogates by subtly seducing."

Born in Augusta, Georgia, in 1957, Tony Gray has a BA from the University of California – San Diego and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts – Valencia. Gray studied at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and has received additional grants and fellowships from The Santa Fe Art Institute, The MacDowell Colony and Art Matters, Inc.

Tony Gray's work has been exhibited widely in New York, in solo and group exhibitions at: Debs & Co., Brent Sikkema Gallery, DFN Gallery, PS. 122, Katonah Museum of Art, the New School for Social Research, Longwood Arts Gallery, White Columns, Art in General and Apex Art; his work has also been presented nationally at: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, CA, Byron Cohen Gallery, Kansas City, MO, Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA, Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT, Allston Skirt Gallery, Boston, MA, Bass Museum of Art, Miami, FL, the University Museum, University of California – Santa Barbara, CA, and Hallwalls Gallery, Buffalo, NY. Gray has garnered critical attention in the New York Times, Time Out New York, The New Yorker, Artforum, Art Issues, Los Angeles Times and Interview. Tony Gray lives and works in New York City.

ACAG presents Tony Gray: The New Black is Black during the 2003 National Black Arts Festival!

Tony Gray,
Black Fairy, 2001
Colored pencil, wood veneer, acrylic on panel,
36" x 25"
Courtesy the artist

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