In 1972, Cleve Gray’s “Hawaii” series was shown at the Betty Parsons Gallery, the seminal gallery for the first generation of Abstract Expressionists in New York. Reevaluating these works nearly fifty years later, they clearly retain the same rich and seductive qualities, an abstract distillation of the natural beauty of Hawaii. The Hawaii paintings came out of the winter of 1970-71 when the Ford Foundation invited Gray to the Honolulu Academy of the Arts where he was an artist in residence. As Gray recalls:
We rented a beach house in Lanikai on the edge of the Pacific about twenty minutes across the mountains from Honolulu. The landscape was lush and glorious, the weather gentle and glowing, the ocean enveloping. It was a time of flowers and fruits. I painted about eighty canvases. Too many. I eventually burned almost half of them in a great fire.
After the family returned to Connecticut, Francine du Plessix Gray, Cleve’s wife, wrote a profile of Hawaii that appeared in The New Yorker and also became her second book, Hawaii: The Sugar-Coated Fortress. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies this exhibition with an introduction by Vincent McGee, a close family friend, and colleague in the anti-war movement who stayed with them in Lanikai. This exhibition will travel to the Leadapron Gallery in Los Angeles this summer.