The Gray Room was inspired by two events; curator Janet Levy attended an artist talk by Fowler Museum director Marla Burns’ and Nick Cave in which Burns compared Nick Cave’s work with pieces from the Fowler African collection. Coincidentally within this time frame Levy met an African art dealer, inspiring her to initiate a project with artist Todd Gray. Through an email exchange with Gray while in his studio in Ghana, Levy proposed the idea of combining his two bodies of work (self-portrait and Michael Jackson images) together with authentic African masks. After some consideration he opened up to the concept, considering that much of the conceptual undercurrent in his work reflects his time spent each year in the West African nation.
Todd Gray’s installation The Gray Room is included in the From My Universe: Objects of Desire, Part II exhibition at See Line Gallery. In collaboration with the curator, the artist creates a photo/sculpture installation combining Gray’s images of Michael Jackson taken when he worked as his personal photographer in the 80′s, with turn of the century African masks and Ghost Clouds, an investigation of Gray’s neo-primitive wonderings engaging Jungian principles of the Id and African animism. The atmosphere of ritual and mysticism is palpable in the gallery space.
Gray began using his Jackson images as an art source while studying with photographer and writer Allan Sekula at Cal Arts twenty years ago. The Gray Room is a ritual space, an intersection of concerns common in his various works with the inner dialogues swirling in his head while working in Africa, and thinking about America.