Launch LA: “Before Present” by William Wray and “Houses” by John Scane

LAUNCH LA is proud to present two new solo exhibitions, Before Present by William Wray and Houses by John Scane. An opening reception will be held Saturday, March 14th from 6-9 PM. RSVP is essential, please email rsvp@launchla.org

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.

Scane’s Houses embraces a satisfying simplicity both in terms of its palette and forms that belies the depth of its subject matter. “The ‘Houses’ series is about relationships: personal relationships with family and friends as well as formal relationships of color and composition. Both kinds of relationships change over time, and both seem to be intertwined to me,” explains Scane. Like Wray, Scane is driven by his personal experiences – each painting begins with the memory of a house, the relationships it represented, the lives and moment that unfolded within. As paint is added, pushed and drawn across his canvas, these memories well forth and recede again with successive layers as forms emerge, guided more by feeling than a desire to duplicate the physical reality of these houses.

The images are composed of segments of color in which muted blues, greens and purples predominate, arranged in what initially appears a purely abstract manner. Their shapes possess no clearly defined edges, their lines waver and their colors meet to metamorphose into another shade or to clash jarringly with an adjacent field of contrasting color. Yet closer inspection brings out more literal possibilities, as Scane puts it: “Architectural and landscape views combine, hovering between street level and bird’s eye views, creating a pictorial space that is at once flat and illusionistic.” Entertaining this perspective, in one painting a rectangular yellowish shape leaps forth, becomes an open doorway; warmth and light spills invitingly out into the night. This is the gateway, shapes become not just houses, but homes, bearing the marks of their inhabitants, their families and histories in an intuitive code of color and light.


William Wray

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.

John Scane

John Scane was born in Los Angeles in 1967. Spending the first year of life as a foster child Scane was later adopted by his foster parents and raised in the small town of Glendora in Southern California. After attending California State University Long Beach, Scane became active in the Los Angeles art scene. Trained primarily as a painter Scane has expanded his skills to include photography, design, woodworking and sculpture. For 15 years he owned his own woodworking business where he designed and built many custom furniture pieces. He has exhibited his art nationally and internationally, received a generous amount of press and has his work in many private collections. In 2003 he co-founded the artist group Pharmaka that is based in Los Angeles.

LAUNCH Gallery
170 S. La Brea Ave., upstairs
Los Angeles, CA 90036

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