March 8 – September 22, 2024
PORTALS is the first solo museum exhibition by Los Angeles-based artist Fay Ray featuring large-scale hanging sculptures and seven new site-specific commissions. In PORTALS, the artist fills MOCA’s space with her distinctive metal sculptures and debuts a new immersive black and white collage created with images taken in the Sonoran Desert.
Ray’s two and three dimensional works reference histories of abstraction, shapes and patterns found in the natural world, and spiritual iconographies. Developing her practice over the last two decades, the artist has generated an extensive vocabulary of forms that she uses to compose her monumental, monochromatic metal sculptures, which redress the male-dominated history of large abstract sculpture and painting. Ray uses industrial processes and materials alongside organic forms and handcrafting to make these works, including: machined aluminum sheeting; individually hand-looped chains; manually polished surfaces; kiln-formed glass and carved stone medallions; casts of plants, shells, and baskets. These works are suspended from the ceiling with custom hardware, and depend on connective physical relationships and careful balance between disparate materials and objects.
Relationality is key to Ray’s photographic collages as well, which use repetition and contrast to build up landscapes that depict inner and outer worlds simultaneously, opening up portals to other visual fields and sensory experiences. For this project the artist realizes a new 14 foot tall collage composed of textures, plants, objects, and debris found in the desert surrounding Tucson, which provides a backdrop and counterpoint for the sculptures. The piece reorients the content and grandiosity of traditional landscape photography by fragmenting images of the desert and reorganizing them into an abstracted, mandala-like composition—manifesting an imagined place that eludes photographic capture.
Further diffusing the mythos of male abstraction, Ray transfigures aspects of her biography into source material for the work. She utilizes aluminum as a primary material that references her family’s multi-generational trucking business, which linked agricultural producers between California, Arizona, and Northern Mexico. Cast agave and cactus signal the presence of the desert in her childhood, while primary shapes like discs, bars, and crosses form altars and mobiles nodding both to Mexican-American Catholicism and modernist aesthetics. The scale, physical labor, connective elements, and process-based nature of the sculpture reflect the artist’s experiences of birth, creativity, and life-force as a mother of three.
Ray’s seven new commissions respond to the scale of MOCA’s architecture, engaging in dialog with male-dominated lineages of monumentality, minimalism, and the legacy of landscape photography. She asserts a feminized perspective stating, “I want to bring into the experience of the work a simultaneous sense of the immense and the infinitesimal, the mortal and the unending that I know intimately as a birthing person.” Each artwork in the show offers a doorway, a gate, a portal—illuminating a way into the immense inner landscapes of our own creation.
This exhibition is organized by Laura Copelin, Deputy Director & Lead Curator with Alexis Wilkinson, Curator.
Generous support for this exhibition is provided by Nazarian / Curcio; Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Arizona Commission on the Arts; and MOCA Tucson’s Board of Trustees, Ambassador Council, and Members.
In-kind support provided by BATA; Nossa Imports; The Downtown Clifton; and Sorta Summer Rowhouse.
About the artist
Fay Ray received her MFA from Columbia University and her BFA from Otis College of Art and Design. Solo exhibitions include The Soraya Art Gallery, California State University Northridge, Northridge, CA; Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles, CA; Louis B James Gallery, New York, NY; JOAN, Los Angeles, CA; and Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. Ray’s special projects and installations have been featured at Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills and New York; REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA; and L.A.N.D. (Los Angeles Nomadic Division). Group exhibitions include the Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA; Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris; The Mistake Room, Los Angeles and Mexico City; Praz-Delavallade, Los Angeles, CA; Gagosian Gallery, New York, NY; El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY; among others. Her work is held in the permanent collection of the Palm Springs Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Ray’s works have been reviewed by Artforum, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, New York Magazine, Riot Material, Wallpaper*, Issue Magazine, and The Brooklyn Rail.
Image Credit: Fay Ray, El Gulfo, 2018 (detail); Fay Ray, Scatter, 2023. Courtesy the artist and Nazarian / Curcio Gallery, Los Angeles.