Ray Caspio: THE WALL, at 1300 Gallery

Ray Caspio, THE WALL, installation (Detail). Photo: Liz Maugans.

Ray Caspio creates site-specific multimedia installations that are simultaneously immersive and ephemeral. In his most recent work, THE WALL at 1300 Gallery at 78th Street Studios, curated by Kelly Pontoni, he combines the ambient sounds and storytelling in this dynamic exhibition of pandemic-era performance, installation, painting, and other media.

His immersive work interweaves sensory and mental information to open new avenues of thought. Ray’s work is intimate–deeply, unapologetically intimate–but it is communal too, with microscopically-focused, ironic details and an expansive sense of cosmic unity. There is a dreamlike ascent into the space with pencil drawings and writings that bring viewers very close, and gestural paintings that make them stand back to appreciate the eroticism exploding from the wall full of art.

Not unlike Pink Floyd’s THE WALL, wherein a confined rock star descends into madness in the midst of his physical and social isolation from everyone, Ray’s journey through a painful spine injury to the loss of people in his life during the pandemic motivate this uncensored, brave exhibition exploring his own time and space in this world.

Ray Caspio, poloroids. Installation photo by Liz Maugans.

Fear is real for our LGBTQ+ community, but the body politic of queer love, eroticism, and intimacy is celebrated here. He offers a respite in a safe space and wants everyone to leave their mark. Participation is encouraged. An example is an invitation to react, agitate, rip, or stand on the face of a piece on the floor—an  illustration of Donald Trump.  Writing thoughts and fears on the wall is welcomed. The beauty is the way his work makes everyone feel recognized, an idea that we are all in this together, even if it is fleeting and momentary. He has a campy joy that is likely from the combination of his work as an actor and his knowledge of queer art history, including Tom of Finland and Robert Mapplethorpe, among others. His work is entertaining and accessible.

Photo by Ray Caspio.

Ray has had a longtime obsession with Superman. He started as an illustrator, and Superman was (of course) created in Cleveland by illustrator Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel. Ray appropriates and reframes this superhuman in a homo-erotic way. In a series from a small sketchbook, he embodies the superhero in fetishized, obsessive, decorative, and gilded drawings. Self-portrait photographs and Polaroids are cropped and tease the viewer with gorgeous, fit crotches and asses, many that he has shared with admirers during the pandemic. Longing and desire trigger the celebration of wanting closeness and touch.  Translating the male gaze and celebrating queer culture, particularly in this political firestorm is bold, and fearless and is evidenced by his perspective and experience.

In the corner of the gallery, as a performance space, Caspio has recreated a part of his home studio, with a transparent plexiglass wall so viewers can see. He writes on the wall and labors over a handwritten manifesto where his day-long performances are spent rewriting his automatic diary entries. The membrane of plexiglass isolates him, but also exposes him.  Drawings on both sides of the transparent wall are reminiscent of Laurie Anderson’s immersive show The Weather at the Hirschorn.

This exhibition provides an open-endedness with many different flavors and textures to experience. It is supported with a Satellite grant from SPACES, funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation. It is important to mention artists like Ray who have a cross-disciplinary approach and can foster such ambitious, deeply personal, and multidisciplinary work. For young queer artists, this show is a must-see!  The show runs until May 27th. Gallery Hours are Saturday and Sundays  from 2-5 pm

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.

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