Owen Gray

Owen Gray: Habitat in Peril

September 3 – 28, 2019

Reception:  Thursday September 5, 5 – 8 PM

Artist Talk: Saturday, Sept 28,    3 pm

Video of reception available on NYC Gallery openings site https://youtu.be/q41eaocillc

For Owen Gray’s 11th solo exhibition with Blue Mountain Gallery, Habitat in Peril, Gray continues to shows us what Critic Jed Pearl calls “intimations of darker emotional register”.  Although it is clear what traditions Owen is coming from: Tiepolo, Bosch, Goya, Bruegel, the impetus for his work is shrouded in symbols and metaphors.

In particular, Hieronymous Bosch has provided a constant fodder for Gray. Bosch’s depictions of fire, recently sparked Gray’s attention as he looks at them from close-up. The smaller the vantage point, the more the fallen shapes swirl around the fire creating mysterious figures in their silhouettes.

Also an indication of his manipulation of scale, Gray depicts microcosmic worlds that are removed and blown up into the world below or above us, as in a swamp or sky. Snakes, crocodiles, butterflies, and bathers struggle to survive as they are removed from their natural habitat and are flung into a state of peril. The unknown state that Gray’s characters exist in can serve as metaphor for the real world struggle of climate change and natural habitat destruction that Gray has cited as a source of inspiration. It’s a fragile place that Gray depicts, given to us a bridge between the real world and the primordial soup that dreams are made of.


Born and raised in Wayland, Mass., Owen Gray studied as a young man at the Portland School of Art in Maine and the Swain School of Design in New Bedford, MA.  In 1975, he moved to New York and took classes at the New York Studio School, where he studied with Nicholas Carone and Leland Bell.

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“{Owen Gray’s paintings have} something of the quality of a Tiepolo ceiling in miniature, with a general sense of celebratory lunacy, all the trumpets blasting, all the balloons ascending, everything striped and beribboned and decked out for a party…”                  -Jed Perl, The New Republic  (2012)

{Gray paints} “a kind of primordial peaceable kingdom, as far from the frenetic hard-edged modernity of New York City as one could get… a Freudian never-never land where the ego lives in close touch with churning instinctual energies.”                – Ken Johnson, The New York Times (2002)


Past Exhibitions

Owen Gray: World of Darkness, World of Light  

April 26 – May 21, 2016

Owen Gray’s recent paintings will be presented at the Blue Mountain Gallery in Chelsea, New York City April 26th-May 21st. World of Darkness, World of Light is Gray’s 10th solo show at the Blue Mountain Gallery, which he has been a member of since 1992.  Praised by critic Jed Perl of the New Republic for his “deft, fleet, subtly virtuosic brushwork that articulates shape and spirit with confidence and ease,” Gray presents the viewer two worlds in these paintings. The first one looks up into a vast, rich darkness that encompasses fantastical flying creatures lit brightly from below.  In the second world, the world of light, there is an emphasis on the vast sunlit world, where the open blue sky is inhabited by a dazzling array of winged creatures twirling and whirling every which way or down into the an aquatic netherworld where birds, insects, musical instruments and overturned boats inhabit a lush mysterious environment of dense vegetation.  Gray’s paintings have a Rococo panache, and are influenced and inspired by the ceilings of the Italian painter Tiepolo, as well as by Peter Brueghel, Hieronymus Bosch, and 17th century Dutch still life.


March 27th – April 21st    2012

Owen Gray’s ninth solo show at Blue Mountain Gallery illustrates two perspectives the artist has been engaged in for years. From above, you are looking down at aquatic wild life, musical instruments, overturned boats – all in the thick of a dense, tropical environment. From below, you are looking at freefalling creatures and objects of desire as they whirl every which way. Gray’s subject matter is indirectly influenced by the Italian painter Tiepolo, Pieter Brueghel, Hieronymus Bosch, and 17th-century Dutch artists.

Born and raised in Wayland, Mass., Gray has painted in Maine, Massachusetts, and New York, a true East Coast native son New Englander. When he moved to New York, he began to study with Nicholas Carone and Leland Bell at The Studio School.

Of Gray’s paintings, New York Times critic Ken Johnson wrote that “his stroke is relaxed, but exacting” and described Gray’s concerns and “all-over abstractions as a kind of primordial, peaceable kingdom, as far from the frenetic hard-edged modernity of New York City as one could get. It is also a slightly creepy and scary Freudian never-never land where the ego lives in close touch with churning instinctual energies.”

Mario Naves of The New York Observer wrote, “Mr. Gray’s symbolism has a strong spiritual subtext. Even when he paints something as mundane as a hillside covered with scrubby bushes, it’s shot through with retribution, redemption, and less assuredly, grace. This is what makes him special – there’s no separation between the dutiful naturalist and the visionary. Indeed, to call Mr. Gray a ‘visionary’ is to inflate the quiet rectitude of his fantasies.”



Website: www.owengray.net 

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