Cleve 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. During the 1960s Gray’s work changed dramatically, dissolving his earlier cubist compositions into a seas of distilled color. This body of work marked the beginning of an artistic meditation that would last for over 40 years. The rigors of French modernism, the character of Abstract Expressionism, and the calligraphic restraint Eastern art commingle with astounding affect; alternating between explosive energy and contained reflection, between the universal and highly personal.
Gray has exhibited extensively in both museums and galleries across the country. His work is represented in a number of important collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and The National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C..
1918 (New York, NY) – 2004 (Hartford, CT)
1992 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT
1940 Bachelors of Art in Art and Archaeology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
1996 Threnody, Neuberger Museum of Art, State University New York, Purchase, NY
1995 Cleve Gray: Romantic/Modern, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT
1991 Cleve Gray, Eva Cohon Gallery, Chicago and Highland Park, IL
1990 Holocaust Triptychs, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, NY
1987 Cleve Gray Recent Paintings, Duke University Museum of Art, Durham, NC
1984 In Prague, Armstrong Gallery, New York, NY
1981 New Paintings – Roman Walls, Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, NY
1977 Cleve Gray: Paintings 1966-1977, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
1970 Cleve Gray Retrospective, The Art Museum, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
1970 Paintings and Painted Forms, Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, NY
1967 Ceres, Saidenberg Gallery, New York, NY
1964 Recent Paintings, Staempfli Gallery, New York, NY
1955 20th Century Works of Art, Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA
1948 Cleve Gray, Jacques Seligmann Gallery, New York, NY
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
1976 Arte Americana Contemporana, American Embassy, Bucharest, Rumania
1967 Selections 7967, University Art Museum, Berkeley, CA
1966 Recent Still Lifes, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
1955 24th Biennial Exhibition, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
1948 Annual Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1948 Paintings of the Year, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
1948 Abstract and Surrealist American Art 34th Annual,
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH
SELECTED HONORS AND AWARDS
1998 American Academy of Arts and Letters Electee
1997 Honorary Trustee, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
1988 Commission for Outdoor Art at the Station Competition,
Union Station, Hartford, CT
1980 Artist-in-Residence, American Academy, Rome, Italy
1971 Artist-in-Residence, Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu, HI
1970-75 Trustee, New York School of Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture, New York, NY
1968-79 Trustee, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
1963 Artist-in-Residence, Oklahoma Art Center, Oklahoma City, OK
1961 Ford Foundation Purchase
1948 Critic’s Choice Exhibition, Grand Central Art Gallery, New York, NY
SELECTED PUBLIC COLLECTIONS
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
The Jewish Museum, New York, NY
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
Campbell, Lawrence. “Cleve Gray at Berry-Hill,” Art in America 84, June 1996, p. 98-99
Santlofer, Jonathan. “Lions in Winter: American Artists in Their 70’s and 80’s,” Art News 92
March 1993, p. 86-91
Hirsh, Linda. “Painting Unveiled at Airport,” Hartford Courant, May 10, 1988, B4.
McGill, Douglas C.. “Art People,” New York Times, February 5, 1988, sec. 3, p. 27
Charles, Eleanor. “Works by Cleve Gray,” New York Times, July 3, 1988, sec. CT, p. 1
Kuspit, Donald B. “Cleve Gray at Armstrong,” Art in America 74, no. 10,
October 1986, p. 161
Sozanski, Edward J. “From an Abstract, ‘Cool’ Painter, a Lively New Style,”
Philadelphia Enquirer, April 10, 1986, p. SC
Bass, Ruth. Art News, February 1985, p. 148.
Wolff, Millie. “Irving Galleries Selection Provokes the Mind,” Palm Beach Daily News,
November 17, 1982, p. 3
Shirley, David L. “Wall to Wall: Painting by Gray Nears Heroic Proportions,”
New York Times, August 12, 1979, sec. 12, p. 17
Muchnic, Suzanne. “First Postmerger Show at Otis/Parsons,” Los Angeles Times,
July 3, 1979, sec. 5, p. 7
Brunelle, Al. “Cleve Gray at Betty Parsons,” Art in America, March-April 1977, p 116-17
Diamonstein, Barbaralee. “Song of Lamentation,” Art News, September 1974, p. 78-79
Canaday, John. New York Times, January 10, 1970, p. 27
Levin, Kim. “Gray’s Ceres Series,” Art News 66, no. 7, November 1967, p. 52-53, 73-74
Dillenberger, John D. “An Opportunity Not to be Missed: Cleve Gray’s Threnody Paintings,”
Arts: The Arts in Religious and Theological Studies 8, no. 2, 1966, p. 30
Benedikt, Michael. Art International 10, no. 1, January 1966, p. 98
Beck, James H. Art News, March 1964, p. 10.
Preston, Stuart. “From Tradition to Innovation,” New York Times,
January 18, 1959, sec. 10, p. 12
Reed, Judith Kaye. “London War Ruins,” Art Digest, December 15, 1948, p. 21.
CATALOGUES AND PUBLICATIONS
Fox Weber, Nicholas. “Cleve Gray”, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1998
Rose, Barbara. “Cleve Gray: The Eumenides Series,” Berry-Hill Gallery, 1996
Yau, John. “Nature as Gesture.” Cleve Gray: A Small Retrospective 1934-1986,
Armstrong Galleries, 1986
Ratcliff, Carter. “Cleve Gray: In Prague 1984.” Armstrong Gallery, 1984.
Cleve Gray: Paintings, 1966-67, Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY, 1977.
Berlin, Marjorie Elliot. “Design Through Discovery,” brief edition.
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980. (Threnody 1973)
Goodrich, Lloyd. “American Art of Our Century,” Whitney Museum of American Art, 1961.
Cleve Gray’s ever-changing life was catalogued not only in his paintings, but the writings he left behind. Gray’s early criticisms of Abstract Expressionism eventually gave way to his own Expressionist aesthetic in which he attempted to strip away notions of ego. Art and Antiques provides an extensive article about his life, from his service in the Second World War to his passing in 2004.
The New York Times – Art:2 Looks at his Works
At a time when Abstract Expressionism was on the rise in America, Cleve Gray went from critic to active participant in the iconic mid-century movement. Gray was a painter whose works (in retrospect) occupied a spectrum of conceptual approaches. In his constant exploration of figure and ground, his shifting ideas were seemingly akin to his fondness of Chinese opposites.