William Wray is an accomplished painter who masterfully creates remarkable interpretations of normally unremarkable landscapes, that most of us pass by and ignore daily. He infuses unexpected colors into his work in an organic way that makes his depictions pop out. For example, he perfectly captures the thickness of LA's distinctive air, whether the scene is taking place during the day when hazy sunlight is fighting through or at night when city lights fight the darkness. His works convince you that real beauty can be found everywhere, you just need the help of the right artist's eye and the right presentation to appreciate it. I've been to William's studio a couple times and always marvel at how, no matter the size of the canvas, his work has a consistent power and substantial presence. He selects settings and frame their compositions in a timeless way, much like Edward Hopper did.
In fact, when I first saw a book of his work, I was thrilled to have found a modern day Hopper who was often using LA and the surrounding area as his muse. LA can be beautiful, but it has more than it's fair share of ugly. William understands that very well, but he never cops out by choosing naturally picturesque landscapes that might be an easier sell. Now, you may not want to visit some of the locations he depicts by yourself after dark, but that's part of the appeal and magic of his paintings. His work showcases the edgier side of our surroundings and gives the grit an inviting aesthetic twist.
The majority of his landscapes do not feature people. But, at the same time, you do feel the distinct presence of a dense population with all the man-made structures and vehicles that loom large. In fact, most of William's work underscores how humankind often transforms once natural settings into urban wastelands that over time deteriorate.
He zeros in on locations that can be bustling at certain times of the day and dead, quiet at others. William shows the city at rest- Well worn and worn out. When he does paint people, they are often intriguing characters that make you want to know their back story. You see within them a kind of loneliness and detachment, which I think many of us feel, in spite of being in the middle of a city. Our family, friends and acquaintances are often spread out thanks to urban sprawl and random strangers comprise a good portion of our daily interactions.
"Monolith" is an apt title for William Wray's show at LAUNCH Gallery. One definition for the word is "An organized whole that acts as a single unified powerful or influential force." He has several fantastic books that are a joy to page through. LAUNCH Gallery is located at 170 S. La Brea Ave. in LA and is on the second floor. The show runs till March 30. Check out his past work at williamwray.com
Words and images by Rick Galiher