Kevin Francis Gray (b. 1972, Northern Ireland) has generated bodies of work which address the complex relationship between abstraction and figuration. Working in a range of media—from bronze and marble to cast resin—the artist’s techniques and modes of representation have varied, with Gray moving from figures in highly polished finishes to those with rough-hewn surfaces. Rather than working toward ideals of beauty or memorial, Gray attends to the psychological affects of his subjects, often relying on textural surfaces rather than facial or bodily postures to convey mental states.
His work has been included in exhibitions at the Royal Academy, London, UK; Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, UK; Museum of Contemporary Art of the Val de-Marne, Paris, France; Nieuw Dakota, Amsterdam; Palazzo Arti Napoli, Naples, Italy; Musee d’art Moderne, Saint-Etienne, France; ARTIUM, Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporáneo, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain; Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel; and Art Space, New York, USA.
New York—Pace Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by Kevin Francis Gray. This new body of work focuses on his commitment to marble and the exploration of its materiality, presenting a clear departure from his earlier veiled figures and neoclassically inspired ballerinas. Kevin Francis Gray will be on view from March 30 to April 22, and an opening reception will be held on Thursday, March 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. Kevin Francis Gray is the artist’s first solo show at Pace New York.
Originally from Northern Ireland, Gray’s personal background and artistic development inform the new works exhibited. The jagged, asymmetrical physicality of the works references de Kooning’s Clamdigger; the smooth, circular shapes echo Hepworth’s oval sculptures; and the trope of the reclining nude is reminiscent of Matisse’s iconic nudes. Moving beyond this historic threshold, Gray’s exhibition showcases his drive to further make contemporary the traditional material of marble. The works boldly recall the first steps of Gray’s process, which begins in clay-work: the marks of the artist’s hands, fingers and tools are visible and palpable, giving the illusion that the stone is as malleable as the initial clay sculpting.
The striking quality of these works lies in the tension between aggressive movement imposed on the material and the confidence emanating from the figures. Gray’s youth, spent in a politically turbulent Northern Ireland informs the intensity of the movement—forceful, expressive gestures; thick gouges at the eyes; and claw marks in the spines of the nudes. The male and female figures that come out of this vigor emerge stronger than before, and stronger than Gray’s earlier introspective sculptures. Evolved from his obscured, veiled characters, the artist introduces to his audience these vehement, intense, and fervent figures that exude life and voraciousness from every gouge. Here are the works of an artist entering a new era—one of boldness and assertiveness, ready to challenge his own understanding of the stone’s possibilities.
Throughout most of his career, Gray has worked closely with the Giannoni family, among the oldest and most respected marble artisans in Pietrasanta, Tuscany. Previously known for producing replicas of seminal Vatican sculptures, the artisans are deeply rooted in tradition, and before Gray, had never extensively worked with a contemporary artist. Using sculpting techniques going back centuries (the Giannoni studio uses no machinery, despite advances in robotic technology), the artisans and Gray meticulously block out, carve and polish each work by hand, from start to finish. Canova said, “Clay is life, plaster the death and marble the resurrection of sculpture.” The painstaking manual labor and dedication to exceptional quality give the artwork its due resurrection. But Gray’s thoughtful and risk-taking growth with the medium offers it longevity.
Kevin Francis Gray (b. 1972, Northern Ireland) has generated bodies of work which address the complex relationship between abstraction and figuration. His work has been included in exhibitions at the Royal Academy, London, UK; Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, UK; Museum of Contemporary Art of the Val de-Marne, Paris, France; Nieuw Dakota, Amsterdam; Palazzo Arti Napoli, Naples, Italy; Musee d’art Moderne, Saint-Etienne, France; ARTIUM, Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporáneo, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain; Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel; and Art Space, New York, USA.
Kevin Francis Gray has been represented by Pace since 2014. This is the second solo exhibition of his work with the gallery.
Watch artist Kevin Francis Gray discuss his exhibition of new works at Pace in New York with Gallery Director Elliot McDonald.
Artsy's Abigail Cain reviews Kevin Francis Gray's exhibition of new works on view at Pace Gallery in New York. All seven works in the exhibition have been made at the Giannoni family marble workshop in Pietrasanta, Italy, a town with a rich history of sculptors of marble, including noneother than Michelangelo. Cain notes that Gray's Cave Girl (2016) was made from marble extracted at the same cave where Michelangelo sourced his marble in the 1500s. Gray's work is contextualized with these stro
In anticipation of his exhibition at Pace Gallery in New York, Kevin Francis Gray has been profiled by the Wall Street Journal Magazine. Alice Cavanagh writes about Kevin's work with the Giannoni family marble workshop in Pietrasanta, Italy, one of the most well-regarded marble workshops known for their continued commitment to traditional processes and techniques. Though highly selective in their decisions to work with contemporary artists, the workshop's owner Marco Gionanni recalls seeing Ghos
2017. Pace London. Hardcover
64 pages: 20 color & 11 b&w illus;11 7/8 x 10 1/8 inches