In the 1960s, Gray was making increasingly loose, increasingly explosive, monumental paintings. This is evident especially in the Silver series of 1967. This sense of freedom is evident and deliberate in these charged canvases. Gray said “I thought I should do something untoward and without the rational guidance of my paintbrush. I had nothing to lose, and I wondered what would happen; I picked up a bucket of aluminum paint and threw it at the canvas lying on the floor.”
These works establish Gray as a master of color and material. Silver floats against a backdrop of varied color, alive with an alchemical glow. They alternate between explosive energy and contained reflection, between the universal and the highly personal.
Gray recalled that he may have had the aluminum paint around for painting a tennis court fence. This kind of coincidence appealed to him, as deliberate as he was, he believed in the power of accidents and of chance occurrence and in the I-Ching.
As Nicholas Fox Weber wrote, this group of paintings have “tremendous richness and poetry, for Cleve’s dedication to the making of art, his responsiveness to the materials, the intoxications with color he had had even since he was a child and his personal language led them to create works that offer us riveting, uplifting experiences.”
Gray graduated Summa Cum Laude from Princeton University, where he studied painting and Far Eastern Art. Like many of his generation, he joined the United States Army during World War II, serving in England, France and Germany. After the war, he remained in Paris on the GI Bill, where he furthered his study of painting.
Gray has exhibited at a number of important institutions including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, The Brooklyn Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. The artist is also represented in a number of important public collections including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, The Brooklyn Museum, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Smithsonian, The Jewish Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Museum of Modern Art, The Newark Museum, The Phillips Collection, the Whitney Museum of American Art.
*See Nicholas Fox Weber’s discussion in Cleve Gray, Harry N. Abrams, 1998.