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Casey Gray Updates the Baroque With Emojis and Spray Paint at Circuit 12

In much of Casey Gray's art, there's a humorous tension between message and medium. Imagine if the 17th century Flemish painters had worked in spray paint. Conversely, picture Peter Paul Rubens on a skateboard. See? Funny. This was the crux of much of San Francisco-based Gray's early work, in which he explored the subject matter of Baroque still life using a complex method of layered spray paints and stenciling.

"I decided to start at the beginning with what is Art 101, like still life painting," Gray says. "I wanted to see how I could paint an apple, part of that also has to do with challenging the idea of tradition with non-traditional techniques in the face of artistry. But more so it was about developing an entirely visual language."

Lately, his work is a bit more true to his daily life, with beach scenes and digital media. It's these motifs that will be on display in his first Dallas solo exhibition at Circuit 12 Contemporary, Of Land and Sea, opening with an artist reception at 6 p.m. September 6.

"I wanted them to reflect my own place in the world, not be based too much in something I might have seen," Gray says. "I wanted the subject matter of the work to reflect my own experience more, which has more to do with optimism than anything else."

He's channeled this playfulness into a series of figurative realism, which he describes as Post Cezanne and Picasso. In this body of work, he'll be showing something he calls "ripple paintings," in which he builds a language similar to -and even including- emoji characters, like pizza, an anchor, popsicles, or a vase. If you look closely at the above image, you'll even notice the lovestruck smiley face.

This interest in technology presents itself in both the product and the process of his paintings, much of which is found imagery from time spent on scouring the Internet.

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"My work starts as layered digital collages, mostly Google image sourced," says Gray. "The work first lives in the digital platform. Part of my interest of combining them all back together to give them a relationship in a real space, bringing everything full circle."

It's a very contemporary approach that comments on the proliferation of digital media into our every day lives; we interact with intangibles daily, in a way very similar to the way you interact with art. But his work is also really damn fun to look at.

Stand in front of his topless sunbather and notice the intricately painted sand; admire the psychedelic patterns of the baskets. Then step back and remember that he does it all with spray paint.

See Of Land and Sea at the opening reception from 6-10 p.m. Saturday, September 6. More info at circuit12.com.

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